Crinella Leads Thunder in Muzzling of Grizzlies, 6-2
Peter Crinella scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Wichita Thunder to a decisive 6-2 victory over the Utah Grizzlies on Wednesday evening. Crinella was one of 12 Wichita players to find the scoresheet, as the team recorded a trio of goals in both the second and third periods. The victory moved to the team to 6-3-1 in their last 10, moving them ahead of Fort Wayne for the top spot in the Western Conference. The loss dropped Utah into fifth in the conference.
After a scoreless first period, Crinella put his team on top 2:55 into the second. The Wichita forward carried the puck into the Utah zone on a 2-on-1 break looking to pass the puck to Stephen Johnson, but the lane was taken away from him. Crinella opted to take the shot himself, beating Grizzlies’ goaltender Peyton Jones with a laser race shot over the shoulder for his 11th goal of the year.
The Grizzlies responded a little over two minutes later, scoring a shorthanded goal to tie the game at one. A bad giveaway gave the puck to Matthew Boucher who dished it ahead to Travis Barron, sending him the opposite way on a breakaway. His initial shot was stopped by Wichita netminder Evan Buitenhuis, but Barron was able to put in his own rebound for his third goal of the year.
Utah had the better of the play for the first 30 minutes of this contest, but Wichita began to dominate, scoring four unanswered goals in the span of about 10 minutes to take a commanding lead. The first came at 14:46 of the second period when Brayden Watts carried the puck into the Grizzlies end. He passed it to Spencer Dorowicz, who moved across the high slot, creeping down toward the crease before firing a backhander that beat Jones to the far post for his seventh goal of the year.
A little over three minutes later Crinella put Wichita on top by two goals. Garrett Schmitz moved into the high slot, dropping the puck for Crinella who moved down just inside the left face-off circle before firing another blistering wrist shot that beat Jones to the short side for his second tally of the game.
The Thunder were pressuring and would score two goals in the span of 34 seconds early in the third to take a commanding 5-1 lead. The first game at 3:37 when Cam Clarke carried the puck down along the boards into the Utah zone. As he approached the end line, he fired a beautiful pass across the slot to Anthony Beauregard who was crashing the net. Beauregard tried to gain control initially, tipping it up in the air, but was then able to knock it out of the air and into the net for his team leading 20th goal of the season.
Moments later Dean Stewart took the puck behind the net, carrying it out toward the left face-off circle. That drew the Utah defenseman toward Stewart, who then dished the puck to Ryan White in the high slot. White fired a wrist shot that beat Jones to the glove side for his second goal since joining Wichita.
The Thunder were rolling, but Utah would get back on the board at 7:15 of the third. Ryan Lowney stopped a clearing attempt at the Wichita blueline. He flipped the puck up in the air where Charlie Gerard was able to bat it down. The puck landed right in front of Cedric Pare, who quickly gained control before firing a wrist shot that beat Buitenhuis to pull the Grizzlies back within three.
With about five minutes left in the contest and Utah on the power-play, they pulled their netminder looking to try to reduce the deficit, but Ryan Weselowski was able to gain control, firing the puck from the redline into the empty net for his first goal of the season. That made it 6-2, which would be the final.
It was an outstanding performance across the board for Wichita. Besides the three points by Crinella, Alex Peters had two assists. In fact, Wichita defensemen played a role in all six tallies on the evening, recording a goal and six assists. Buitenhuis had another solid performance for the Thunder, stopping 33 of 35 shots.
The Wichita Thunder (34-15-6) will now head back to the road, traveling to Allen to take on the Americans for a trio of games starting on Friday. The puck drops on Friday nights affair at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier