Mannella Sharp as Thunder Winless Streak Reaches Nine, 3-2
WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder got another outstanding performance out of goaltender Evan Buitenhuis, but it was not enough as the Tulsa Oilers were victorious, 3-2. Daniel Mannella was sharp as well, stopping 28 shots and Alex Kromm and Carson Denomie each had two assists for the Oilers. The loss extended Wichita’s winless streak to nine straight games (0-8-1).
Tulsa dominated this contest from the start, outshooting Wichita 17-9 in the first period. That enabled the team to take the lead 5:33 into the contest. This was a beautifully set up goal, as Kromm battled for the puck along the boards inside the Thunder zone. He knocked it toward Denomie, who then made a beautiful backhand pass to Eddie Matsushima. Matsushima swept across the slot, tucking a backhander under the crossbar for his fifth goal of the season.
The Oilers held onto the one goal lead heading in the second period, but Wichita tied the score just 13 seconds into the frame. Brayden Watts gained control of the puck near the Tulsa goal, passing it back to Sean Allen at that point. Allen fired a wrist shot that hit off the skate of Oilers player and into the net for his first goal of the season.
Tulsa had outshot the Thunder 17-9 in the second period as well, but Buitenhuis was the difference, continuously shutting down the Oilers to keep his team in the contest.
Wichita was able to get better pressure in the final frame, but Tulsa would retake the lead 3:07 into the third. Coming out of their own end, Duggie Lagrone led his team on a 3-on-1 break into the Wichita zone. Lagrone passed the puck across to Denomie, who fired a wrist shot that Buitenhuis saved, but no one cleared out Lagrone, who knocked in the rebound to give Tulsa a 2-1 lead. That was the third goal of the season for Lagrone.
The lead held for less than two minutes before Dalton Skelly tied the score with his first goal of the year. Garrett Schmitz set up the play when he attempted to take a wrist shot but lost control of the puck. Schmitz kept his cool, regaining control before curling back toward the blue line then passing the puck to Skelly. The defenseman fired a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Mannella to tie the score at two.
The Oilers retook the lead when Jack Doremus outraced two Wichita defensemen for the puck, then put a backhander over the shoulder Buitenhuis to put his team on top, 3-2. For Doremus, it was his 12th goal of the season.
Mannella took over from there, finishing with 26 saves, including two in the third period when Billy Exell fired a shot that the goaltender saved, but the rebound came out to Cam Clarke, who looked like he had an opening, but Mannella shut it down.
The loss dropped Wichita to 10-13-2, sixth in the Mountain Division. Tulsa moved to 12-9-1. The Thunder have Tuesday off, but will return to the ice on Wednesday when they host the Allen Americans. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier