Back-to-Back Two Goal Games by Combs Leads Thunder to 4-3 Victory
For the second straight contest, Wichita Thunder forward Jack Combs recorded a two goal game. However, this one he made a lot more dramatic, scoring the game winner with 13 seconds left in the contest to give the Thunder a 4-3 victory over the Rapid City Rush. Mitch Gillam made 34 saves. The victory moved Wichita into first place in the Mountain Division.
The Rapid City Rush had a big opportunity to jump out in front when they went on the power play a little less than eight minutes into the first. However, the Wichita Thunder gained control of the puck following the draw. Fabrizio Ricci took the puck, then headed out of his zone down the right boards. He moved in on Ivan Prosvetov, firing a wrist shot between the goalie’s legs for his fifth goal of the year.
The Rush would get even, capitalizing on their power-play chance. At 9:41, Eric Israel’s shot was saved, but Brennan Saulnier put the rebound back in, stuffing it in for his sixth goal of the year.
Eight minutes later the Rush jumped on top. Keeghan Howdeshell carried the puck in toward the Wichita net, then made a great pass to Dexter Dancs who buried the one-timer past Mitch Gilliam to give Rapid City a 2-1 lead. That was his second goal of the year.
The Rush took the one goal lead into the second, but a heads up play by Gilliam helped created a great chance. Gillam caught the Rush in a line change, firing the puck up the ice to Jack Combs at the Rush City blue line. Combs sped in on the breakaway, sliding the puck between the legs of Prosvetov for his fourth goal of the season and third in the last two games.
With about two minutes left in the second, Gillam made an unbelievable save. Myles McGurty carried the puck into the Wichita end on a 2-on-1 break. He drew the Thunder defender toward him before firing a great pass across the crease to Taylor Crunk, who blasted the one-timer. It looked destined to find the corner of the net, but Gillam made an unbelievable sprawling save to deny the scoring chance.
The Rapid City Rush had dominated much of the first two periods, leading in shots 24-13, and that would continue into the third as they took the lead again just 32 seconds into the frame. Howdeshell passed the puck to Tyler Poulsen, who was able to knock the puck past Gillam to put Rapid City on top 3-2.
The lead did not last long, however, as Wichita tied it a little over two minutes later. Jakob Stukel passed the puck out to Cameron Hebig, who was all alone in the slot. He corralled the puck, then fired an absolute laser of a shot over the shoulder of the Rapid City goalie for his first goal since joining the Thunder.
With three minutes left in the game, Ryker Killins nearly gave Rapid City back the lead. He skated in and fired a shot that Gilliam saved, but the puck came right back to him. He attempted to put the rebound right back in, but Gillam was able to knock it away.
A minute later, it was Wichita that nearly gained the go ahead goal. On a 2-on-1 break, the pass came across to Patrik Parkkonen, who looked like he had a wide-open net to shoot at, but Prosvetov somehow got his pad over to knock away the chance, keeping the score tied.
The Thunder earned a power-play opportunity moments later and would capitalize with 13 seconds left in the game. They were having some trouble getting setup in the Rapid City end, but were finally able to gain control. Parkkonen passed the puck to Ostap Safin, who was down low to the right of Prosvetov. He fired a pass across the crease to Combs. Combs corralled the puck, then fired a wrist shot that the Rush goalie got a piece of but it trickled across the goal line for the game winner. For Safin it was his second assist of the night.
Howdeshell had three assists for the Rush.
The Wichita Thunder (8-3-3) take to the ice again on Friday night when they welcome the Idaho Steelheads. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image Courtesy of Wichita Thunder