Stewart, Sakellaropoulos Lead Thunder Over Oilers, 2-1
Alex Sakellaropoulos stopped 35 shots and Dean Stewart scored the game-winner with three minutes left to lead the Wichita Thunder to a 2-1 victory over the Tulsa Oilers on Saturday evening. The victory snapped a two-game mini-skid for the Thunder, keeping them atop the Western Conference (14-5-2).
Tulsa jumped out in front 9:32 into the contest. Brent Gates, who had two goals on Friday, gained control of the puck behind the Thunder net. He dished it Justin Taylor who was coming out of the corner toward the goal. Taylor moved in front untouched, putting the wrist shot over the shoulder of Sakellaropoulos for his third goal of the year.
Tulsa had the 1-0 lead coming out of the first period, but they had dominated the contest through the first frame and this could have very easily been a 3-0 game. Tulsa outshot Wichita 15-3 in the first, but the Thunder began to turn the tide in the second.
At 3:24, Peter Crinella tied the score. The Oiler defenseman fired a shot from the point that Crinella knocked down. The puck bounced to center ice where Crinella scooped it up, heading toward the Oilers end on a breakaway. He fired a shot that missed the net, but the puck landed just behind the goal. Crinella swept behind the net, scooped it up and then moved in front where he buried a wrist shot past Devin Williams to tie the game at one.
The score remained tied through two periods and it looked like this contest was headed for overtime as neither team was able to light the lamp through the first 16 minutes of the third, but Stewart came through with he game-winner with 3:10 left in the game.
Jay Dickman came out of the Thunder end, passing the puck ahead. It bounced off the boards and was loose in the Tulsa zone. Stewart raced between two Oilers defenseman, gaining control of the puck before blasting it past Williams for this second goal of the season.
The Thunder had their first lead of the game, but there was still three minutes left in regulation. The Oilers pulled Williams with two minutes left looking for the equalizer, but they could not get a shot on net.
Sakellaropoulos was brilliant in his first start for the Thunder, stopping 35 of 36 shots.
Wichita now returns home on Sunday to welcome the Kansas City Mavericks. The puck drops at 4:00.
By Robert Pannier