T.J. Caig netted a power play goal in the first period, an even-strength tally in the second period, and an empty net goal in the closing seconds of the third to lift the Tulsa Oilers to a 7-4 triumph over the Wichita Thunder on Saturday night at INTRUST Bank Arena. Caig became the third Oiler this season to record a hat-trick and the Oilers notched a third straight win for the first time all season. Tulsa has won seven of the nine meetings over Wichita in the StoneWolf Casino Cup Series and has tasted victory in four consecutive road contests.
A power play goal by Justin Bernhardt at 2:26 of the opening frame gave Wichita an early edge, but the Oilers responded quickly with a power play strike of their own. Jon Booras funneled a pass out of the corner to set up a one-timer for Caig who blasted the puck over the shoulder of Tim Boron to level the score at 1-1 at the 5:27 mark. Just over a minute later, Tommy Mele tipped a Nathan Lutz shot past Boron to give the Oilers their first lead of the evening.
The Thunder seized the momentum in the early stages of the second stanza thanks to quick strikes from Todd Hosmer and Nikita Kashirsky. Wichita was back out front 3-2 but the lead lasted only three minutes as the Oilers picked up the equalizer from Adam Pleskach. After Boron made a save on a sharp-angle offering from Dave Pszenyczny, the puck bounced off Pleskach and into the net at 6:46. Less than two minutes later, a shot from Eric Tallent created another rebound that was jammed home by Caig to help the Oilers surge back into the lead. At 12:42 a backhand attempt by defenseman Scott Macaulay slipped under the left pad of Boron and Tulsa enjoyed a 5-3 cushion with 7:18 remaining in the middle frame. The Oilers potted three unanswered goals in less than six minutes and outshot Wichita 16-11 in the second period.
The two-goal advantage held until the latter stages of the third period when a kneeing minor against Mele opened the door for the Thunder power play. Kenton Miller threaded a perfect pass across the top of the Tulsa crease that was buried by Mike Wilson to cut the Oilers lead down to a single goal. Booras found the empty net with a backhand lob from inside his own zone at 18:37 and Caig put the finishing touches on the win by firing into the open cage with 11.9 seconds remaining.
Caig was one of three Oilers to finish the night with three points. Booras ended the tilt with a goal and two helpers while Drew Fisher recorded his sixth three-point night of the season by dishing out three assists. Over their three-game win streak, the Oilers have outscored their opponents 17-6 and Kevin Carr, who made 30 saves on Saturday, has been in net for all three wins. Tulsa has scored a power play goal in six of its last seven games but has also surrendered a power play goal in nine of its last ten.
The Oilers continue their march toward the playoffs on Sunday afternoon with a 4:05 p.m. visit to the Allen Americans.