A loss to Tulsa three weeks ago was arguably the low point of Wichita’s season, a humbling showing against the CHL’s worst team.
Losing to the Oilers 2-1 in a shootout Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena is a more acceptable defeat to the league’s hottest team, but still one that set the Thunder back in their chase for first place.
Wichita goalie Torrie Jung was dominant until the shootout, but Tulsa goalie Shane Malodora’s dominance carried over to the extra time. Malodora stopped three of four shots while Tulsa got three past Jung.
Including Tulsa’s Jan. 18 win, the teams have split their last six games. Tulsa has won five in a row overall, but Thunder coach Kevin McClelland blamed Friday’s loss more on Wichita’s offensive ineptitude than on Tulsa’s recent excellence.
"It was just a game that, as a coach, I’m not happy about," McClelland said. "I’m not taking anything away from Tulsa but we’ve got to win those games. I just don’t think we had the effort tonight."
Winning streaks by Tulsa and the Thunder recently have been highlighted by scoring — Tulsa scored 20 goals in four games before Friday’s and Wichita scored 27 before a five-game winning streak was stopped last week.
Jung and Madolora kept that streak from continuing. Both goalies were locked in from the start, and though Madolora faced a tougher task against Wichita’s faster offense, Jung was just as impressive.
Tulsa scored on a rebound and Wichita on a deflection, so no direct shot got by either goalie before the shootout. Madolora stopped 42 shots, not counting three in the shootout, and Jung had several highlights, including a steadfast showing against a four-minute power play in the second period.
"It could have been a very different game if a couple bounces had gone our way, or even their way," Jung said. "Sometimes games like this happen, and obviously we’re disappointed we didn’t get the two points. But getting a point is better than nothing."
The power-play hold, followed early in the third period by the tying goal from Jarred Mohr, elevated Wichita’s confidence. Madolora did his best to eliminate it, saving several shots when the Thunder had 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 advantages to earn optimal scoring opportunities.
Madolora remained stingy in the shootout, stopping Matt Robinson, Chad Painchaud and Matt Summers, three of the Thunder’s best scorers. Ryan Menei and Ben Gordon, among the league leaders in scoring for Tulsa, helped Madolora’s performance gain meaning by scoring in the shootout.
"We have Menei and Gordon on our team as well," Madolora said. "When we practice shootouts during the week, it’s good to see the top-notch guys in our league every day. When we come up against these types of teams and they have top-notch guys, it helps. It helps with preparation, it helps with the shootout all-around."
The Thunder plays Allen on Saturday in Wichita, the first of four meetings in two weeks. The Americans lead the Thunder by three points in the standings and have played two fewer games.
Allen may be Wichita’s most intense rival, a title once carried by Tulsa. Though the Oilers remain in last place, their winning streak and recent games against Wichita have improved their respectability.
"They’re scoring," Jung said. "You look at Gordon and Menei, and they’ve been on a tear lately. Teams have had a bit of a handful trying to shut them down. I thought we did a really good job tonight, and we can pull some positives out of this game even though we lost."
Scoring—None. P enalties—Wichita, Young (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:53; Tulsa, Flamminio (slashing), 4:12; Tulsa, Beausoleil (hooking), 13:26; Wichita, Lutz (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:31; Tulsa, Cramer (elbowing), 18:12.
Scoring—1. Tulsa, Schafer (Fox, OKane), 9:13. Penalties—Tulsa, Barlock (tripping), 3:48; Wichita, Madden (charging, unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:49; Wichita, Donaghy (abuse of officials misconduct, 10 min), 11:49.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Mohr (Robinson, Young), 2:53. Penalty—Tulsa, Barlock (slashing), 3:49.
Tulsa—Beausoleil no, Menei yes, Gordon yes, Fisher no, Fox yes; Wichita—Robinson no, Painchaud no, Summers no, Trimm yes.
Power play—0 for 4, Wichita 0 for 5.
Shots—Tulsa 6-10-4-3-1—24; Wichita 13-15-12-2-0—42.
Saves—Tulsa, Madolora 41 on 42 shots; Wichita, Regan 22-23.