The Wichita Thunder played host to the Kalamazoo Wings for the second time in franchise history and dominated this contest from start to finish, defeating the visitors 7-3, tying a season high in goals for the team. Matt DeBlouw and Ralph Cuddemi each netted 2 goals in the contest, and Travis Ewanyk had 2 assists. Joel Rumpel earned his eighth win of the season, stopping 35 shots.
The Thunder had some chances early, but would finally capitalize at the 4:38 of the period. After a faceoff in the Wichita end, the puck was knocked out to center where Ralph Cuddemi picked up the loose puck and skated down the right wing on a 2-on-1. Cuddemi entered the zone and fired a wrist shot from about 20 feet away that beat Joel Martin over the glove hand for his fourth goal of the season and his second since joining the Thunder.
At 5:20, it looked like Kalamazoo would get the goal back. While on the power-play, a pass came from behind the goal to Justin Taylor in front of the net, but Joel Rumpel made a great pad save to keep his team on top by one.
That proved to be huge because the Thunder would take advantage of their own power-play opportunity with a little less than seven minutes gone in the period. Chad Butcher came out of the penalty box, putting Wichita on the power-play. He gained control near the boards and weaved his way through two defenders, eventually passing the puck to Greg Chase who swatted the puck into the net for his sixth goal of the year.
Kalamazoo outshot Wichita 10-7 in the first period, but were trailing 2-0 and it would get worse for them less than two minutes into the second. Travis Ewanyk won the faceoff in the Wings end back to Samuel Thibault, who fired a shot from the point. Cuddemi moved to the net and tipped the puck into the net for his second goal of the game to make it 3-0.
Just 66 seconds later it was a four goal lead. Dyson Stevenson gained control of the puck in the Kalamazoo end and brilliantly defended it so that the Wings defenseman could not take it away from him. He passed the puck back to Matt DeBlouw as he crossed the blueline. DeBlouw blasted a one-timer along the ice that beat Martin to the far post for his fourth goal of the season.
A little over five minutes into the second DeBlouw added his second goal of the game just as the Thunder had killed off a power-play chance for the Wings. The puck was cleared down into the Kalamazoo end where DeBlouw sped in and took the puck away behind the net, then coming out in front, taking the no-look backhander and putting it in the net for his fifth goal of the year.
At the 6:37 mark Kalamazoo finally got on the board. The Wings entered on a 2-on-2 rush. Kyle Blaney fired a shot that Rumpel saved, but the rebound went right to Kyle Bushee who buried it for his fifth goal of the season.
With less that eight minutes left in the second Rumpel made a huge save. A pass to T. J. Stenglein gave him a breakaway, and he moved down the slot, taking a wrist shot that the Thunder goalie knocked away with his stick to maintain the four goal lead.
After Wichita was able to kill off a four minute power-play for the Wings they would extend their lead to five with just 24 seconds left in the frame. Travis Ewanyk carried the puck into the opposing end on a 3-on-1 break. He waited before passing to Evan Polei, who was coming down the slot. Polei blasted the puck over the shoulder of Martin and into the net for his second goal of the game.
The third period became a chippy affair as there were four separate fights in the frame. Both teams had golden opportunities in terms of scoring chances as well, but Rumpel and Martin kept the puck out of the net.
Finally, Kalamazoo would break the scoreless stretch. With 5:42 left in the game, Tyler Heinonen passed the puck out of the Wings zone down the middle to Kyle Blaney who entered the Thunder end on a breakaway. He beat Rumpel over the blocker for his third goal of the year.
Just 46 seconds later, the deficit for Kalamazoo would be three. A scramble in front of the net eventually led to Brendan Bradley gaining control and putting the puck in for his second goal of the year. That made it 6-3.
With only 36 seconds left in the game, Cuddemi completed the hat trick. Chad Butcher passed the puck to Cuddemi in the slot, who beat Martin over the shoulder for his third goal of the game and sixth of the season. that made it 7-3 which was the final. The seven goals was a season high for the Thunder.
Wichita scored seven goals on just 25 shots. Ralph Cuddemi scored his first hat trick of the season. Matt DeBlouw had 2 goals for the Thunder. Travis Ewanyk had 3 assists.Both Kyle Blaney and Kyle Bushee had a goal and an assist for the Kalamazoo Wings.
The next game for the Wichita Thunder (15-2-2) is Wednesday night when they take on the Kansas City Mavericks. The puck drops at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier