Mitch Holmberg Leads Wichita Thunder to 4-3 Victory Over Oilers
The archrival Tulsa Oilers came to town Friday night to open a home-and-home series with the Wichita /Thunder. The Oilers entered the contest with a ECHL leading 20-points, 12-points ahead of the Thunder, but Wichita has six games in hand. Wichita was looking to cut into that lead and, thanks to Mitch Holmberg, that is exactly what they did, as the forward netted two goals and added an assist to lead the Thunder to a 4-3 victory. Alexis Loiseau also added two goals and an assist as Wichita held on for the victory.
It was a great battle through the first period of this contest. Both teams had their scoring opportunities but the two goalies stood tall. No save was bigger than at the nine minute mark when Scott Greenham came up with a big save on a 2-1 opportunity that kept the game tied.
At the 16:35 mark the Wichita Thunder grabbed the lead. Holmberg gained control of the puck in the left face-off circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Oilers goalie Jamie Phillips to make it 1-0.
The lead was short lived however, as Tulsa tied the score a little over a minute later. Shawn Bates passed out to Adam Pleskach who fired a shot that Greenham saved, but he batted his own rebound into the net to tie the score. It was Pleskach’s seventh goal of the season.
The first period would end with the score tied and the shots nearly even at 19-18 in favor of Tulsa. In the second period the Thunder would grab the lead and not relinquish it.
At the 4:30 mark Alexis Loiseau took a shot that Phillips saved and a mad scramble ensued in front of the net. Finally, Holmberg tapped the puck into the net for his third goal of the season and second of the game to make it 2-1.
With it a one-goal game, each goalkeeper would make a few big saves in the frame. Danick Gauthier was stoned on a great save by Greenham with about five minutes left in the period. The play went back the other way where Loiseau weaved his way through three defenders and then made a great shot that Phillips made a great save on to keep the score intact.
The second was a period dominated by the Thunder as they outshot the Oilers 19-10, and they would take that momentum into the third period. At the 8:04 mark they would extend their lead to two.
Loiseau had been stopped before, but not in this case. The Wichita Thunder broke into the Oilers zone on a 3-1 with Louick Marcotte carrying the puck down the boards. He made a great pass to Loiseau in the slot who fired a quick wrist shot that beat Phillips for his fourth goal of the season.
At 13:44 Wichita extended their lead. Mitch Holmberg had the puck at the corner of the net and fired a quick pass out in front to Nick Trecapelli who fired it into the net for his first goal of the season. The power-play goal extended the lead to three, and it looked like this contest was over, but in the span of 25-seconds the Tulsa Oilers made this a one-goal game.
With Wichita on the power-play, the Oilers would get two quick short-handed goals. Pleskach grabbed the first when he gained control in the neutral zone and carried the puck into the Thunder end, taking a quick shot that beat Greenham for his eighth goal of the season.
At the 16:13 mark, Danick Paquette broke up a play and began a 3-on-1 into the Thunder end. Shawn Bates would blast a quick shot into the net for his third goal of the season and the game suddenly became a nail-biter.
The Oilers looked for the equalizer, but Loiseau would seal the victory. At the 18:29 mark, Ryan Tesink carried the puck down the boards and passed ahead to Loiseau who wristed a quick shot by the glove hand of Phillips for his fifth goal of the year.
Greenham earned the victory in his first start since returning from Binghamton. Both Holmberg and Loiseau scored 2-goals and added an assist for the Wichita Thunder. Nick Trecapelli had a goal and an assist. Pleskach added 2-goals for the Tulsa Oilers and Danick Paquette added 2-assists. Bates had a goal and an assist. Phillips lost his first game of the season following 11 straight wins.
The Wichita Thunder have a busy weekend ahead. They travel to Tulsa for a 7:05 game Saturday night. They then come home on Sunday to play Fort Worth at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier