Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey

Blazers Beat Wichita 4-3 in Season Opener

BlazerswinkobesBlazers Beat Wichita in Season Opener

The Oklahoma City Blazers began their inaugural season in the Western States Hockey last night as they traveled to Wichita for a 3 game series with the Thunder. The Blazers overcame and early 2 goal deficit to beat Wichita 4-3.
The Thunder opened the scoring just 2:43 into the game when a pair of Thunder forwards were sprung loose in the neutral zone and were able to capitolize on a long 2 on 1. The Blazers defense was caught pinching in the zone allowing the Thunder’s top point getters, Peter Cicmanek and Patrik Janec to make good on Blazers goaltender Braden Lajoie.  The Thunder made it 2 nothing as the top line of Cicmanek, Janac and Ivan Brvenik scored on a 3 on 2 rush at the 11:39 mark of the first period. Although the Blazers trailed, they were able to carry the play and and had substantial time of possession for the entire first period. Wichita goaltender Jake Larson made several huge saves to keep his club ahead. Finally late in the frame with the Blazers on the power play, newly aquired forward Kirill Romanov circled the net and made a long pass to defensman Jared Guffey a the point, Guffey blasted a slapper on net and it was Petr Kobes who picked up the rebound and scored to cut it to a 2-1 Thunder lead after 1.
Oklahoma City came out hard in the second period and it was the line of Kobes, Kole Hudson and Dominik Vlk who were able to connect on a 3 on 1 opportunity. Vlk entered the Thunder zone wide and drilled a slap pass cross ice to Kobes who backhand one touched it to Hudson who had an easy back door tap in to tie the game at 5:57 of the second. Just 10 seconds later with all the momentum the Blazers would go ahead 3-2 as Romanov chipped a puck to fellow countryman Pavel Oxiouta in the neutral zone. The big Russian forward would drive the net hard with winger Matt Levene crashing in from the middle lane. Levene would bang in the feed from Oxiouta to put the Blazers ahead.  OKC would head into the 2nd intermission leading 3-2.
The Blazers special teams was forced to come up big in the third as they ran into peanalty trouble early an often. The Oklahoma City penalty kill was flawless on the night killing off 5 straight penalties. Wichita would tie the game 5:02 into the last frame when a harmless dump in took a funny bounce of the back wall eluding blazers defenseman Michael evans and goaltender Lajoie and going right on the stick of Thunder player Brock Steffen who made no mistake tying the game. Both teams would have defensive lapses in the third period and forced each goaltender to come up big. With just 6:50 remaining in the third period the Blazers Vlk was whistled for a high sticking minor giving the Thunder a great opportunity to reagin the lead after trailing for about half the game. The Blazers penalty kill was equal to the task and just before the Vlk penalty expired, veteran Blazers forward Matthew Audette would force a turnover at his own blue line and score on a short handed breakway to give OKC a 4-3 lead. The Blazers would have an opportunity to go up by 2 when 3 minutes later, Colton Nelson would be issued a penalty shot after he was hauled down on a clear cut breakaway. On the attempt Nelson’s stick would break and the Thunder were able to dodge a bullet. With the goalie pulled and six attackers on the ice for Thunder, OKC’s Hudson, Vlk and Kobes were able maintain considerable possession and kill the clock securing the win for the Blazers.
The Blazers were 1 for 1 on the power play and 5 for 5 on the penalty kill including a short handed game winner by Audette.  Blazers 16 year old  goaltender and Wichita native, Braden lajoie wa able to steal the show in his hometown making 32 saves on 35 shots for his first career junior win. The Blazers outshot the Thunder 42-35.
Oklahoma City and Wichita will square off again tonight at 7 PM for the second game of the 3 game set. Watch the game live on Fasthockey.com.