TULSA, Okla. – Following the longest offseason in ECHL history, hockey returned Friday night in Tulsa.
2,672 mask-wearing, socially distanced fans inside the BOK Center saw the Wichita Thunder claim a 3-2 shootout win over the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL’s return following the suspension of the 2019-20 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic on March 12.
Peter Crinella netted the deciding goal in the first round of the three-round shootout to secure the win for the visiting Thunder. Moving in on Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams from the left side, Crinella perfectly placed the puck into the top of the net above the right shoulder of Williams. Wichita’s Mitch Gillam stopped 32-shots, including all three Tulsa attempts in the shootout in the Thunder win.
A scoreless first period saw the Oilers gain a slight shot advantage of 11-10 as the two squads adjusted to playing a rival team for the first time in nine months. Both teams would eventually shake off the rest, resulting in an entertaining game.
Wichita got on the scoreboard first, finding the net 7:38 into the middle frame on a Chantz Petruic goal from Johnny Curran. Moving in on net during a two-on-one break, Curran centered a pass across the crease, behind a sprawled out Oilers defender to the stick of Petruic, who tapped it past Williams to make it 1-0.
Matteo Gennaro added a shorthanded marker with 10-seconds left in the second period to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead heading into the second intermission. Gennaro picked up a loose puck near the blue line, then skated into the Oilers zone all alone before beating Williams high on the stick-side for the unassisted score.
The Oilers then scored twice in the third period to force an overtime period and subsequent shootout.
Adam Pleskach netted his first goal of the season 4:42 into the period, assisted by Mike McKee and Dino Balsamo. From the boards on the left wing side, McKee sailed a pass to Pleskach, who buried the puck into the net past the glove of Crinella from point blank range to make it 2-1.
Gregg Burmaster found the equalizer eight minutes later, beating Gillam on an assist from Darby Llewellyn. With Burmaster parked in front of the net, Llewellyn sent a pass through traffic from behind the net and Burmaster tapped the puck into the net to tie the game.
Wichita will not see game action again until December 26 when they travel to Independence, Missouri to take on the Kansas City Mavericks, while Tulsa returns to the BOK Center ice on Saturday to host the Allen Americans.
Contact the writer: John.Hall@prohockeynews.com