A potential playoff push needed to start soon for the Wichita Thunder. They may have gotten that start Friday night.
Matt Robinson returned from an injury to score his team-leading 24th and 25th goals in the Thunder’s 4-1 win over visiting Tulsa.
Entering the night six points out of the final playoff spot with 10 games to play, the Thunder needed the win, the team’s first in six games, and the two points.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what we’ve got to try to accomplish here,” coach Kevin McClelland said. “The guys know we’re running out of games.”
The Thunder had missed previous opportunities with a pair of shootout losses last week after dropping three in a row in regulation. Friday’s win not only snapped the Thunder’s five-game winning streak, but also pushed Tulsa’s run to three consecutive losses. Sitting in seventh place and seven points ahead of the Thunder, the Oilers are still within reach, especially considering the two teams will face each other four more times over the next eight days.
“It’s like that, so we almost have to take this like a miniseries getting ready for the playoffs,” forward RG Flath said. “We know it’s going to take a solid, 60-minute effort. We got that tonight.”
Robinson had missed the last four games with a lower-body injury. He was cleared to play and, with family in attendance, scored the first and last goals of the night.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “When you’re injured, I hate watching the games. I hate it. It’s too much for me, so it’s good to be back.”
After Robinson’s score 11 minutes into the game, Matt Summers added another first-period goal when Jon Madden’s shot flew wide but circled the net and settled in front of Summers for the easy score.
The 2-0 lead held through two periods until Wichita goalie David Brown lost his shutout four minutes into the third. Brown blocked an initial shot, but the puck came to rest beside him as he was tangled up with Tulsa forward Ryan Menei. Amid the traffic, Menei spotted the loose puck and snuck it across the line to pull within a goal.
But Wichita’s Erick Lizon responded 62 seconds later with a backhand goal off a rebound to return the lead to two scores.
Robinson added an empty-net goal with 37 seconds left to seal the win.
Brown finished with 22 saves for his 12th win and first in a month.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Robinson (Booras, Dudas), 10:57; 2. Wichita, Summers (Flath, Madden), 16:54. Penalties—Wichita, Robinson (high sticking), 15:41; Tulsa, Gordon (slashing), 16:22.
Scoring—none. Penalties—Tulsa, Barlock (holding), 12:01.
Scoring—3. Tulsa, Menei (Gordon, Pleskach), 3:47; 4. Wichita, Lizon (McParland, Leppanen), 4:49; 5. Wichita, Robinson (empty net), 19:23. Penalties—Tulsa, Bochek (tripping), 8:16; Wichita, Walker (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:59; Tulsa, Lutz (physical abuse of official, game misconduct), 10:59.
Power play—Tulsa 0 for 2, Wichita 0 for 3. Shots—Tulsa 6-6-11—23, Wichita 11-13-11—35. Saves—Tulsa, Madolora 31 on 34 shots; Wichita, Brown 22-23.