The Wichita Thunder welcomed the Colorado Eagles to INTRUST Bank Arena on Tuesday, the team that is first in the Mountain Division. The Thunder jumped out to a 3-1 lead early in the second, but three unanswered goals allowed the Eagles to take the lead and they held on for the 5-3 victory despite 16 shots from the Thunder in the third. Brady Shaw had 2 goals for Colorado to lead the comeback.
The Wichita Thunder took the lead at 5:35 mark of the first. Chad Butcher passed the puck diagonally across the crease back to the point to Kevin Patterson. Patterson wound up and fired a shot that went through the five hole of Sam Brittain and in for his first goal of the season.
At the 6:38 mark, a beautiful pass to Michael Joly from out of the Colorado end sent the forward in on a breakaway. He looked to go top shelf on his forehand, but Thunder goalie Nick Riopel knocked it away with his blocker to keep his team on top.
The Eagles tied the score on the power-play. At the 11:06 mark in the first, Colorado was pressuring around the net, and Riopel had to come up with saves on two point blank shots. Moments later the puck was passed to Matt Register, who patiently held onto the puck before taking a wrist shot. Brady Shaw redirected the puck as it was headed for the net and in for his 10th goal of the season. That was the first power-play goal Wichita had allowed in three contests.
A little over two minutes later, Kevin Dufour gave the Thunder back the lead. He gained control of the puck near his own blue line, and headed toward the Colorado end on a two-on-0ne break. He waited until he was near the faceoff circle when the forward decided to take the shot himself. Dufour fired the wrist shot that beat the Eagles goalie over the shoulder to the far side of the goal for his 16th goal of the year.
At 6:37 of the second, Ralph Cuddemi made a brilliant move to extend the Wichita lead to two. Mark MacMillan had control of the puck along the boards near the goal line in the Colorado end. MacMillan passed the puck along the boards behind the net to Cuddemi, who alertly saw that he had a moment before Brittain could move across the crease to cover the far post. Cuddemi came out from behind the net and put the puck in the net on the backhand for his team leading 20th goal of the year.
The Eagles responded right away with two quick goals to tie the score. The first came at 7:20 when Colorado came out of the neutral zone with a head of speed. Ryan Siiro passed to Emil Romig, who fired a shot just inside the faceoff circle for his 10th of the season.
Just 42 seconds later, the Eagles were swarming around the Thunder net. Teigan Zahn had the puck to the right of Riopel. He passed across the crease to Ryan Olsen who was wide open, tapping the puck into the empty side for his 10th of the year.
With only 1:50 left in the second, Colorado would take their first lead of the game. Julien Nantel had the puck at the blue line and passed it to Drayson Bowman who was about five feet from the net. He moved toward the blue line, then fired the puck toward the net where Brady Shaw was able to redirect it into the net for his 11th goal of the season and second of the game.
The Thunder had a golden opportunity with a little less than two minutes left when they went on the power-play, and looked like they would get the equalizer, but Brittain made two amazing saves on his belly to keep his team on top. Nolan De Jong then gained control of the puck and fired it into the empty net for his second goal of the year, giving the Colorado Eagles the 5-3 vict0ry.
Brady Shaw had 2 goals for the Colorado Eagles. Julien Nantel had 2 assists. Sam Brittain saved 34 shots for the win.
These two teams will face-off against each other on Wednesday night. It will be the final game that the Colorado Eagles will have in Wichita as they join the American Hockey League next season. The puck drops at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Rob Pannier