Ward Hat Trick Leads Oilers to 5-3 Victory over Thunder
Two goals by Peter Crinella helped stake the Wichita Thunder to a 3-2 lead entering the third period Sunday afternoon. However, Cory Ward scored two of his three goals in the final frame to lead the Tulsa Oilers to a 5-3 victory. The Oilers fired 50 shots on Mitch Gillam, 22 in the final period.
As they had the night before, the Wichita Thunder jumped out to a quick lead, scoring just 35 seconds into the game. Fabrizio Ricci passed the puck down the boards behind the net to Beau Starrett. He came out from behind the goal to tuck the puck past Olle Eriksson Ek for his 10th goal of the year.
A little past the six minute mark the Tulsa Oilers tied the contest. J.J. Piccinich stole the puck inside the Wichita end, passing it back to Ward as he entered the zone. He blasted a one-timer by Gillam for his second goal of the year. That tied the score at one heading to the first break.
The Oilers dominated the second period, outshooting Wichita 16-6, but it would be the Thunder that would come away leading after 40 minutes. Wichita retook the lead at 5:39. Ricci gained control of the puck in the corner in the Tulsa end. He fed Crinella with a perfect pass in the slot. Crinella blasted a slapshot over Eriksson for his fifth goal of the year.
The excitement lasted just 21 for the Thunder. At the six minute mark, Mike McKee had the puck at the blueline. He passed to Charlie Sampair who was at the side of the net. Sampair lifted the puck up and over Gillam tying the game at two.
The game looked like it may head to the second break tied as well, but Crinella scored his second goal of the game to put Wichita back on top with 1:20 left in the frame. Much like the previous goal, Patrik Parkkonen had control of the puck in the corner. He fed Crinella in the slot, who blasted the one-timer into the far corner to put Wichita on top, 3-2.
The Wild led despite being outshot 29-19 through the first two periods, but the third period was all Tulsa. They tied the score at 1:06 when Sampair passed the puck behind the net to Ward, who quickly corralled the puck, then slid it around the post, tucking it in for his second goal of the game.
Exactly eight minutes later, Ward gave his team their first lead of the contest. Sampair fired a shot from the point that Gillam knocked down, but it fell right in front of Ward, who batted it home for the hat trick. It was his fourth goal in just his third game with Tulsa.
Jack Kopacka added an empty net goal with 15 seconds left in the contest. It was his fourth goal of the year.
Sampair finished with a goal and an assist for Tulsa. Mike McKee added two assists. Eriksson stopped 20 of 23 shots he faced.
Despite taking the loss, Gillam played very well for Wichita, stopping 46 of 50 shots he faced. Billy Exell and Ricci each had two assists.
The Wichita Thunder return home to take on the Utah Grizzlies on Tuesday night. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image Courtesy of Wichita Thunder