It was opening night to the 2018-19 season for the Wichita Thunder on Friday night. it was also the 700th game coached by Malcolm Cameron and what better way to celebrate than with a victory. Thanks to a shootout goal by Colin Jacobs the celebration was on as the Thunder ended the comeback hopes of the Idaho Steelheads in the 3-2 Wiichita victory.
Despite the fact that the shots were nearly even in the first period, with the Wichita Thunder outshooting the Idaho Steelheads 17-14, the Thunder had the best opportunities. The first came about six minutes into the game when John McFarland moved in from the left of the Idaho goal. He passed out in front to Jakob Stukel, who directed the puck on net, but Idaho goalie Phillippe Desrosiers made a great save to keep it scoreless.
Idaho had a great opportunity near the midway point. Jake Nevins stole a pass inside the Wichita end, heading in on a breakaway. He looked to go top shelf, but Stuart Skinner made a great save with his blocker to deny the opportunity.
With 6:30 left in first, Greg Chase made a pass out in front to Ralph Cuddemi, who moved to his backhand looking to get the shot in on the far side of the net. However, Desrosiers kicked out his leg to deny the chance.
The Thunder continued to press and would get another great opportunity moments later. The pass came out in front to Jeremy Beaudry who was moving down the slot. He went up high with a blast, but was rejected.
With 3:10 left in the first, the Thunder would finally get on the board. With the faceoff in the Idaho end, McFarland won the draw. He moved a step forward then made a great pass across the slot to a wide open Jakob Stukel who drilled the puck over the pad and into the net to put Wichita on top, 1-0.
With one minute left in the period, the Steelheads had a big opportunity to tie the score. Reid Petryk skated down the left side toward the goal. He then swooped in on net, but Skinner denied him any opportunity to find an opening.
The Thunder kept the pressure on and in the second and would extend their lead to two. At the 3:15 mark, Colin Jacobs had the puck in the corner. He passed out in front to Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who was alone in front of the net. He quickly deflected the puck in for his first goal of the season to make it 2-0.
With 9:59 left in the second, the Steelheads would get on the board, completely changing the momentum of the game. Brad McClure picked the pocket of the Thunder defenseman, giving him the puck in the Wichita end. He moved in on a breakaway, going to the backhand and over the pad of Skinner for his first goal of the season, cutting the Idaho deficit in half.
A little over a minute later, McClure nearly tied the score. After Skinner made a pad save, the Steelheads forward corralled the puck, heading around the net looking for the wrap around on the other side. Skinner was out of position after making the initial save, but quickly got to his feet, sliding across quickly before getting his pad between the puck and the goal to deny the chance.
With 5:12 left in the first, the Idaho Steelheads would tie the score. A.J. White brought the puck into the Wichita end, then dropped it to Justin Parizek. He fired a shot that Skinner saved, but it trickled through his pads and to the side of the net where Brady Norrish swooped in and put the puck into the empty net for his first of the season, tying the score at two.
At 2:41 of the third, it looked like Wichita would retake the lead. Lane Bauer took the puck down the boards and into the Idaho end. He made a great pass across the goal mouth to Colin Larkin who tried to deflect the puck up high, but Desrosiers slid across and was able to block the puck with his chest protector, hanging on to force a faceoff.
The Steelheads continued to dominate play through the third, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. That sent the game to overtime.where the Thunder dominated. A power-play gave them numerous opportunities, but Desrosiers made a number of big saves, that included on a penalty shot for Travis Brown as time expired.
The game went to a shootout where neither team scored during the first three rounds. That added an extra round where Skinner would make the save before Colin Larkin beat Desrosiers with a wrist shot to give the Wichita Thunder the victory. Stuart Skinner made 38 saves in the victory.
The Wichita Thunder are back in action on Saturday when the welcome the Allen Americans to INTRUST Bank Arena. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier