The Wichita Thunder came out flying Sunday afternoon, jumping out to a 5-0 lead midway through the second period before holding off a late Fort Wayne Komets rally to win 5-3. Alexis Loiseau led the attack, scoring two of the first three goals by the Thunder and adding an assist in the victory, and Scott Greenham won his second straight game since returning from the Binghamton Senators.
If the Wichita Thunder came out a little sluggish in this contest, no one would have blamed them. After a Friday night game at home against the Oilers, the Thunder headed to Tulsa for the second game in the home-and-home series, only to return to Wichita for the late afternoon tilt. However, the team came out fired up, and that would lead to a goal 8:45 into the contest.
After Greenham made a great save on a shot by the Komets, Nick Trecapelli passed to Loiseau, who took the puck out of his end on a coast-to-coast rush toward the Fort Wayne end. Loiseau entered on a 2-1 but kept the puck, swooping in and then turning to his backhand to put the puck over the glove hand of Eric Hartzell and into the goal to make it 1-0.
It would be a one-goal game heading to the first intermission, with the Thunder outshooting the Komets 11-8. It had been a close contest, but the first half of the second period would see Wichita blow the game open.
Cody Sol had taken a slashing penalty to end the first period, putting Wichita on the power-play to start the second. However, it looked like the Komets would get the equalizer when Jamie Schaafsma stole the puck in the neutral zone and went in on a breakaway. Coolly, Greenham came up with the huge save to keep his team on top.
Back the other direction the play went where Trecapelli passed to Logan Nelson in front of the net, who tipped it in for his first goal of the season. The power-play goal came just 31-seconds into the period.
A little over three minutes later Loiseau would find the back of the net again, this time with a short-handed goal. The forward stole the puck away in the neutral zone and headed down the right wing boards. He then swept in front of the net and put the puck between Hartzell’s pads for his seventh goal of the season.
Just a little over three minutes later, the Thunder would be back on the board again. Mitch Holmberg made a great pass across the goal mouth to Blake Tatchell, who one-timed it in for his first goal of the season.
Wichita was on a roll, and it would only get bigger when Nelson stole the puck in the neutral zone and wristed a shot that the Fort Wayne goalie could not handle for his second goal of the game. That was just 18-seconds after Tatchell’s goal and made the score 5-0.
The Wichita Thunder were in complete as Greenham continued to shine in net, making a great set of saves. The first came at the 8:39 mark when the Komets were on the power-play. The Thunder goalie made a save at the point, only to have to a point blank rebound shot a moment later that he made a great glove save on. At 11:20, Kyle Thomas made a great move right toward the net, but Greenham got his glove hand out to stop the shot and keep the five-goal lead intact.
With a little under six minutes left in the period the Fort Wayne Komets finally got on the board. Mason Baptista made a great pass across the goal mouth that David Friedmann simply redirected to the corner of the net for his fourth goal of the year. The Thunder had been dominating to that point, but that seemed to completely change the momentum of the contest.
“I thought we played really well for thirty minutes, until they scored that first goal, then that really changed the game,” Head Coach Malcolm Cameron explained after the contest. “That seemed to send a shockwave of panic into the team. We have seen that against Utah, we saw that against Tulsa this last Friday night, and once you let that mindset get into your head it’s hard to get out of it.”
The Thunder still had a commanding lead, but it was clear that the attitude of the team had changed slightly and, in the third period, the Komets would really put on the pressure. At the 3:29 mark, Schaafsma netted his fifth goal of the year when Wichita was unable to clear the puck out of the zone. Greenham made five great saves, four of which were right on the doorstep, but the puck finally wound up on Schaafsma’s stick and he wristed it over the glove of the Wichita goalie and into the net to make it 5-2.
A little less than six minutes later Sol carried the puck behind the net and, as he was coming out from the right side, he fired a pass to Shawn Szydlowski who one-timed it into the goal and suddenly this was a two-goal contest.
The energy of the Thunder began to pick up and they had a couple of great opportunities to extend their lead, but Hartzell made the saves each time to keep it at 5-3. With 3:28 left, Fort Wayne pulled their goalie and would also have the man advantage. Despite the Komets getting some great shots, they were unable to get any more passed Greenham and the Wichita Thunder held on for the win.
Fort Wayne dominated the third period, blasting 22-shots to Wichita’s five, but they would come away empty-handed. The Thunder fended off all six Fort Wayne power-plays, giving them 16 straight penalty kills. Greenham saved 43 of 46-shots. Hartzell saved 18.
The Wichita Thunder were led by Alexis Loiseau who had 2-goals and an assist. Nelson added 2-goals, and Trecapelli had 2-assists. Szydlowski had a goal and an assist for Fort Wayne, and Sol added 2-assists.
The Thunder have the next four days off before hosting the Alaska Aces for a three-game set starting Friday night. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier