The generally peaceful Tulsa Oilers were supposed to be an easy target for a strong, physical Thunder Hockey team that loves to fight.
Since Tulsa rarely engages in hand-to-hand combat, perhaps no one knew that its throwdown skills were somewhat polished.
Polished, maybe but not lasting. The Thunder baited Tulsa into a style of game the Oilers are unaccustomed to playing, wearing them down physically and psychologically to run away with a 6-2 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Oilers entered with seven major penalties this season, by far a CHL low. There was a flurry of fights on Saturday, and by the end of the second period Tulsa was no longer keeping up.
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"They're a pretty soft team, but they're good," Thunder forward Erick Lizon said. "They're a good team, so you have to play physical on guys like that or else you're not going to be successful."
Several players were involved in an early fight that landed three from each team in the penalty box. From that point forward, nearly every time there was a stoppage near the goal words were exchanged and there was at least the makings of a fight.
The Thunder game-planned to push Tulsa around but seemed caught off guard by the Oilers' game response. Wichita may have been too caught up in trying to out-hulk Tulsa, and that helped the Oilers take a 1-0 less than four minutes in.
"If we have a fight, you're thinking about the fight before hockey," Lizon said. "But you still have to think about the game and wait for (a fight) if it comes."
The battle between the longtime rivals, who opposed each other for the 10th time this season, didn't peak when Gerome Giudice made an obscene gesture to fans from the penalty box after a fight in the second period.
It didn't truly reach a boiling point until the final seconds. By that time, the Oilers were likely frustrated that the Thunder's physical play overwhelmed them. The momentum shifter happened late in the second, when Wichita's Dustin Donaghy took down Giudice, silencing Tulsa's prime instigator.
"I know that's part of my job," Donaghy said. "(Giudice) was going around taking liberties with some of our players. I know the way I fight, and I knew I'd be able to handle myself pretty well against him. At a time like that, I know the guys will help carry that over (into the next period)."
Wichita broke a 1-1 tie when Daniel Tetrault scored about three minutes into the final period. Tulsa made it 2-2 shortly after, but the Thunder had a quick response from Thomas Beauregard, who scored the first of his two consecutive goals and four straight by Wichita.
With the Oilers refusing to go quietly, the Thunder seemed to take pleasure in adding goals after the outcome was essentially decided. The last one came by Justin Sawyer, his second of the year, with Wichita carrying a 5-on-3 advantage.
"That was two good teams going at it," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. "The third period we kind of got the upper hand on them. It was an exciting game for the fans, too, to go into the All-Star break with that."
The two-man advantage was created when a fight broke out near the Tulsa bench, with Lizon primed to engage with Tulsa's entire team. Donaghy was fighting as the final buzzer sounded, and when he took down the Oilers' combatant, the ovation for Wichita's fifth win over Tulsa grew exponentially.
"There's always bad blood between us," Donaghy said. "As each shift went on it was getting more chippy because it was such a tight game and nobody wants to give the edge here or there. But slowly as the game went on it got chippier that's where... we need to protect our guys and pay the price to them, as well."
Tulsa1 0 1 — 2 Wichita0 1 5 — 6
Scoring—1. Tulsa, Ofukany (Lucyk), 3:09. Penalties—Tulsa, Fleck (cross checking, roughing), 2:23; Wichita, Robinson (roughing), 2:23; Wichita, Sawyer (roughing), 2:23; Tulsa, Giudice (fighting major), 2:23; Wichita, Davis (fighting major), 2:23; Wichita, Flath (roughing), 6:50; Wichita, Beauregard (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:37; Tulsa, Standish (hooking), 14:20.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Davis (Robinson, Wight), 14:41. Penalties— Tulsa, Giudice (roughing), 3:23; Wichita, Chappell (roughing), 3:23; Tulsa, Standish (tripping), 7:53; Wichita, Donaghy (fighting major), 12:07; Tulsa, Giudice (fighting major), 12:07; Tulsa, Solway (slashing), 14:04; Wichita, Sawyer (slashing), 14:04.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Tetrault PP (Seibel, Davis), 3:24; 4. Tulsa, Weeks (Giudice, Standish), 5:02; 5. Wichita, Beauregard (Flath), 5:29; 6. Wichita, Beauregard (Summers, Flath), 12:14; 7. Wichita, Robinson (Hemingway, Mohr), 13:50; 8. Wichita, Sawyer PP (Beauregard, MacDonald), 19:56. Penalties— Tulsa, Standish (hooking), 2:52; Tulsa, Raven (hooking), 8:54; Tulsa, Raven (abuse of officials), 13:50; Wichita, Lizon (tripping), 16:24; Tulsa, Terminesi (hooking), 18:35; Wichita, Lizon (roughing), 18:35; Tulsa, Giudice (spearing double minor), 18:35; Wichita, Sawyer (fighting major), 19:57; Tulsa, Sheldrake (fighting major, no category misconduct), 20:00.
Power play—Tulsa, 0 for 3, Wichita 2 for 6.
Shots on goal—Tulsa, 9-5-11—25, Wichita, 9-12-16—37.
Saves—Tulsa, Garman, 31 saves on 37 shots; Wichita, MacDonald 23 saves on 25 shots.
T—2:38. A— 6,410.