Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey

Blazers Suffer First Loss, Take Two of Three From Springfield

After defeating the El Paso Rhinos last weekend, the Springfield Express looked to come into Oklahoma City and continue their momentum against the last undefeated team in the Western States Hockey League in the Oklahoma City Blazers. The Blazers, after having swept the Dallas Snipers in dominating fashion, looked to prove the detractors wrong and prove they deserved to be undefeated coming into the weekend against Springfield.

Friday night, the Blazers and Express opened their series at the Blazers Ice Centre. The Blazers started goaltender Drennen Atherton, while the Express started their leading goaltender, Bailey Stephens. The game quickly became a battle of the goaltenders as neither one gave up a goal through the first 37 minutes of the game, despite multiple power play chances for each team. At 17:55 of the 2nd period, the Blazers drew first blood as Kirill Romanov scored, assisted by a returning Joel Leckstrom and Jared Guffey, putting OKC up 1-0 after forty minutes of play.

The 3rd period was just as exciting as the previous two as each goaltender made big saves to keep the puck out of their nets. 6:51 into the period, the Express were able to take advantage of a power play as they tied things up 1-1. The tie would not last long, as the Blazers went on the power play just a minute later, and leading-scorer Tomas Rubes put OKC back in front. Jared Guffey would seal things up with a point shot through traffic, giving Oklahoma City a 3-1 win to open the series. Atherton made 24 saves in the win, while Stephens turned aside 37 shots in the loss.

Saturday night, the two teams were right back at it, with both Atherton and Stephens back in net. The game took on a different tone early as Vitali Mikhailov and Joel Leckstrom gave OKC a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the game. Ivan Bondarenko put OKC up 3-0 in the 2nd period, but the Express’ leading-scorer Linus Dahlberg kept Springfield within striking distance heading into the 3rd period with a 3-1 OKC lead.

The Blazers came out strong in the 3rd and took away the majority of Springfield’s passing lanes and causing turnovers. Joel Leckstrom scored his second goal of the night, and Adam Charvat made it a 5-1 game, enough to chase Stephens out of the net and replaced by Mario Lamper. The Blazers weren’t done as the captain Zack Paxman sealed the game 6-1 for the Blazers 14th straight win. The Blazers held Springfield to only 12 shots in the game with Atherton stopping 11.

Sunday afternoon was the series closer as Springfield had one last chance to return to Missouri with any standings points. Both Atherton and Stephens started for the third straight game in net.  Things looked to be going the Blazers way to begin the game as Leckstrom scored his third goal in two games to put OKC up early. 10 seconds later, Springfield tied it right back up from a goal by Jack Nevicosi.

Martin Hajsman opened up the scoring for Oklahoma City in the 2nd period and put the Blazers up 2-1. OKC held the lead for a couple minutes, but Dixon Whitehead tied it back up for Springfield. Three minutes later, the Express scored again from the stick of Derek Smith and put the Blazers behind in the score for the first time all weekend. Gael Lubwele kept things moving for the Express as he scored to make it a 4-2 Springfield lead. Kirill Romanov would not let the game get too far away, as he scored to make it a 4-3 game before the period ended.

Into the 3rd period, the Blazers tried to crawl their way back, and it only took them 2:31 into the period to do so. Vitali Mikhailov picked up the puck and scored to tie things at 4-4 early in the 3rd. Both goaltenders came up big in the 3rd as they turned aside all manners of chances. Springfield would be the ones to break through however, as Nikita Salnikov put Springfield back on top. The Blazers could not overcome the last deficit and gave up an empty netter, as they suffered their first loss of the season.

Oklahoma City has the benefit of getting right back into the swing of things and shrugging off the loss as they get set for a midweek tilt against the Tulsa Oilers on Thanksgiving Eve at 7pm at the Blazers Ice Centre. Tulsa has been off since the last weekend series between these two teams a few weeks ago, making this the fourth straight game against the Blazers for Tulsa.

Oklahoma City sits in second place in the Midwest Division as El Paso earned five points against the Wichita Thunder last weekend. The Blazers are only three points behind with three games in hand as they look to catch up to the Rhinos.

Tickets for Wednesday can be picked up at the Blazers Ice Centre box office prior to the game, or by calling 405-601-6489.