TULSA, Okla. – The roller coaster season of the Tulsa Oilers continued on Friday night when they took on the Wichita Thunder for the first time at home this season. The game was a homecoming for the Thunder’s Head Coach Bruce Ramsay, who was the bench master for the Oilers from 2008-2015.
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The Oilers dominated for a large part of the game, walking away with a 6-3 win over their oldest professional hockey rivals. The victory was largely due to the strengths of forwards Robby Jackson and Jack Kopacka. The two forwards combined for four of Tulsa’s six goals on Friday, with Josh Wesley and J.J. Piccinich netting the other two tallies.
Wesley and Piccinich combined for Tulsa’s first goal when a blast from Wesley was tipped by Piccinich through the legs of Thunder goalie Mitch Gillam, giving the home side a 1-0 lead they would take into the first intermission. Jackson got his eighth goal of the season just over six minutes into the second period when he punched the disc past Gillam’s blocker off a centering pass from Adam Pleskach.
Kopacka gave Tulsa a three-goal lead less than a minute later when Jake Clifford found him wide open in the right-hand circle, and the Oilers then took a comfortable lead when Kopecka connected with Jackson on a wrapping pass to give the home team a 4-0 advantage. With a little under five minutes remaining in the middle period, Patrick Parkkonen finally solved Oilers goalie Devin Williams by zipping a pick past his blocker to ruin the potential shutout bid.
The Thunder showed signs of life in the third after Wesley netted the Oilers fifth goal of the night on a power play marker. Ostap Safin cracked off a laser beam shot through Williams to edge the Thunder closer to the Oilers, followed in quick succession by a Cameron Hebig goal. Just like that, the visitors were back in contention. Kopacka then cruised into the Thunder zone and ended the rally by zipping the puck past Gillam from the top of the left circle.
The victory gave Tulsa it’s tenth win on the 2019-20 season, sending the team on the upswing with two more games coming up against Wichita this weekend at home. Above all, the Oilers showed resiliency when the Thunder showed signs of life in the third.
“We did okay,” Oilers Head Coach Rob Murray said after the game. “The two goals they scored quickly there, you know, we regrouped and we gave ourselves a chance to not pull their goalie and come within a goal at the end.
“We took advantage of our chances and did well on the power play and special teams all around. It was a good game; we played well all around, and there are still obviously things we can tighten up on.”
Devin Williams made 30 saves on 33 shots, while Mitch Gilliam turned aside 41 of the 47 volleys the Oilers sent his way. The Thunder were blanked on all six of their power play opportunities, while the Oilers were 2-for-7 on the night.
The Oilers will continue their three game stint with Wichita Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon.
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