Buitenhuis Stellar in Thunder Blanking of Grizzlies, 1-0
Evan Buitenhuis is quickly reaching legendary status, stopping a season-high 53 shots in outdueling Utah Grizzlies netminder Garrett Metcalf in the Wichita Thunder’s 1-0 victory on Saturday. That gave Buitenhuis his sixth straight victory and second shutout since joining the team, lowering his goals-against average to 2.00 in a Wichita uniform. Ryan White had the lone goal for Wichita, scoring the only goal of the game.
This was a fantastic goaltending battle, with both Buitenhuis and Metcalf making a number of highlight reel saves. The first came 8:15 into the contest when Thunder forward Matteo Gennaro fired a shot from the boards that Metcalf made a nice save on. The puck was loose in the crease, but he was able to deflect a rebound attempt by Alex Peters.
Just before the end of the first period, Charlie Gerard came out from behind the Thunder net, firing a wrist shot that Buitenhuis saved, but the rebound was left loose in the crease where A.J. White tried to knock it in, but the Wichita goaltender stood strong, making the pad say before the puck was knocked into the corner.
Utah had controlled play in the final nine minutes of the first period, taking the final 10 shots of the frame. That gave them a 17-9 edge heading into the second, where it would become a wild back-and-forth affair. The Grizzlies outshot the Thunder 20-15 in the period, but neither goaltender was giving in.
Utah looked like they were going to take the lead 9:30 into the second when a perfect feed sent Josh Dickinson in on a breakaway. He cruised across the crease, looking like he was going to be able to put a forehand shot past Buitenhuis, but the Wichita goaltender was somehow able to get his pad out and stop the attempt.
With two minutes left in the period, Jay Dickman took a feed that sent him in on a breakaway, but Metcalf was able to knock away the puck before Dickman could get a shot off.
It looked like neither netminder was going to give in, but with 11 seconds left in the second period, Wichita broke the scoreless tie. Gennaro fired a shot from the point that Metcalf saved, but the rebound was loose right in front of the net and White was able to knock it in for his first goal since joining the Thunder.
Down by a goal, the Grizzlies put the pressure on in the second, outshooting Wichita 16-4. They had a golden opportunity to tie the score with a little less than 10 minutes left in the game when Travis Barron stole the puck and headed out of his end on a breakaway. He began to slow down his speed as he approached the net, trying to get Buitenhuis to shift to his right, but the goaltender was having none of it, making a great pad save, and then denying Ty Lewis’ rebound attempt to keep his team on top by a goal.
The Grizzlies pulled Metcalf with a little less than a minute left in the game but could not get the equalizer as the Wichita Thunder earned at the 1-0 victory. The victory was the sixth in a row for Wichita (29-12-5) who remain a top the Western Conference standings.
These teams will close out their three-game series on Sunday. The puck drops at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier