The Thunder won’t participate in any postseason games this month, but Wichita can still experience elements of playoff hockey.
Though Friday’s game against Tulsa lacked the stakes and the physicality of a playoff game, it offered glimpses of what the Thunder will miss after being eliminated from contention by Tulsa on Wednesday.
In a fast-paced game, it was often difficult to tell that the result carried little consequence. And like many postseason games, it was decided by goaltending as Tulsa won 2-1 in a shootout at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Oilers continued their mastery of Wichita as their season series came to a merciful end. Tulsa won 12 of 14 meetings and reached the ECHL postseason on the strength of that superiority.
The Thunder may have played its two best games of the season against Tulsa this week but has little to show for it as its season ends Saturday at home against Allen.
“(Playoff games have) probably a little more intensity,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. “Another close one, we just couldn’t bury our chances. We had some chances, that goalie had just had our number all year.”
Tim Boron excelled in net for the Thunder, but he couldn’t quite match counterpart Kevin Carr.
The Thunder seemed most eager to prove it could finally beat Tulsa, which won the final six meetings this season. In the third period, Wichita turned an evenly matched contest into one it controlled in the final minutes.
The teams were virtually equal in shots for the first 50 minutes, but an offensive surge by the Thunder allowed Wichita to finish with a 43-30 advantage.
Carr stopped all but one, though, and then turned away five more shots in the shootout, many acrobatically. Tulsa’s Scott Macaulay beat Boron in the second round of the five-round shootout, and that was enough.
“(Carr) played well,” McClelland said. “We’ve been doing all right in shootouts, but then we got cold again tonight.”
The only time the Thunder bested Carr was on a second-period power-play goal by Ian Lowe, which he sniped in from near the left circle. Tulsa answered with an even-strength goal minutes later, and Carr and Boron dominated the rest of the game.
Wichita missed multiple chances on close-range shots, sometimes briefly catching Carr out of position before he recovered in time to prevent rebounds or unexpectedly save the initial shot.
“Anytime you put up 44 shots, you should probably have more than one goal,” McClelland said.
Carr’s performance was one more thing that went against the Thunder in the series against Tulsa, which included a short-handed goal by the Oilers on Wednesday followed by a game-winner that deflected off an official.
There weren’t enough x-factors that could have swayed the rivalry in Wichita’s favor, but the last two games at least got the Thunder wondering, however briefly, how it would play against Tulsa if it had more chances.
“But we don’t,” McClelland said. “So we can’t even go there.”
First period —None. Penalties—Wichita, Bartliff (tripping), 0:54; Wichita, Trebish (cross-checking), 11:11; Tulsa, Perfetto (slashing), 18:05; Tulsa, Lutz (tripping), 18:51.
Second period —1. Wichita, Lowe PP (Hosmer, Wilson), 8:41; 2. Tulsa, Pszenyczny (Pleskach, Macaulay), 11:11. Penalties—Wichita, Miller (roughing), 1:12; Tulsa, Mansfield (hooking), 6:03; Tulsa, Fisher (slashing), 7:40; Tulsa, Carr (delay of game), 16:17.
Third period —None. Penalties—Wichita, Wilson (holding), 0:52; Wichita, Hosmer (slashing), 8:25; Tulsa, Pleskach (slashing), 8:40; Tulsa, Pleskach (roughing), 15:47; Wichita, Flath (slashing), 15:47.
Shootout — Tulsa: Caig no, Macaulay yes, Pleskach no, Booras no, Fisher no; Wichita: Lowe no, Flath no, Gauthier no, Hosmer no, Dorr no.
Power play—Tulsa 0-5, Wichita 1-6. Shots—Tulsa 12-9-8-1-1—31, Wichita 11-10-16-6-0—43. Saves—Tulsa, Carr 42 saves, 43 shots; Wichita, Boron 29-30.
Allen at Thunder
When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Intrust Bank Arena
Records: Allen 47-14-6-3, Wichita 32-30-2-7