Buitenhuis, Beauregard Propel Thunder Past Rush, 3-1
Evan Buitenhuis continues his legendary start with the Wichita Thunder, stopping 25 of 26 shots to lead the team to a 3-1 victory over the Rapid City Rush on Friday evening. Buitenhuis has allowed three total goals over his last three starts, moving to 3-1-0 in his four starts since joining Wichita. Anthony Beauregard added a goal and an assist to give him 49 points which leads the ECHL.
Wichita took control of the game early on, outshooting Rapid City 12-7 in the first, but Rush netminder Adam Carlson and Buitenhuis were both outstanding as the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
The contest remained scoreless through the early part of the second, but Wichita would finally break the string eight minutes into the second. A great individual effort by Jacob Graves set up the goal. Spencer Dorowicz passed the puck back to the point to Graves who moved along the blueline, then down the boards. It looked like he was heading behind the net before passing the puck in front to Brayden Watts who fired the puck past Carlson for his fourth goal of the season.
At the 15:30 mark, Rapid City tied the score. Hunter Garlent fired a shot from the high slot area that Buitenhuis saved. The rebound came right to Andrew Sturtz, who put it back on net, but Buitenhuis came up with another big save. However, the rebound was loose in the crease and the Wichita netminder was down on his back after making the save on Sturtz. With no one clearing out Cedric Montminy, he fired a wrist shot over the sprawled out Thunder goalie for his 11th goal of the season. The goal snapped a string of 141 consecutive minutes since Buitenhuis gave up his last goal.
The third period started with the teams tied, but Wichita would take the lead for good just 37 seconds into the frame. With Wichita on the power-play, Dean Stewart passed the puck back to Beauregard at the point. He moved in about 10 feet before firing a wrist shot that found the far post for his 16th goal of the season.
With time winding down, Rapid City pulled their goaltender looking for the equalizer. However, it would be Wichita that would extend their lead when Jay Dickman scored his 13th goal of the season with 21 seconds left. The empty-net goal gave Wichita a 3-1 lead which would be the final.
Wichita outshot Rapid City 39-26. Carlson finished with 36 saves. Buitenhuis made 25 saves. That improved his save percentage to .937 with a 2.01 goals-against average. The two points helped extend Beauregard’s point streak to four straight games (2 goals, 5 assists).
The Wichita Thunder are now 26-12-5, 22 percentage points ahead of Allen for second place in the Western Conference. The 57 points is the second most in the ECHL.
These teams will go at it again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 8:05 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier