The Wichita Thunder looked to snap a three game losing streak Saturday night, the seventh game of their eight game road trip. It proved to be quite a special night as the first six goals of the contest came from the special teams units, and the Thunder forced overtime by battling back to tie the score on three different occasions. However, with 22 seconds left in OT, Gabriel Desjardins won if for the Fort Wayne Komets with his 29th goal of the year, as the home team won, 5-4.
The first period was a tight checking affair, which saw only 13 shots through the 13-plus minutes of the period. However, Jeremy Beaudry received a double-minor for high-sticking, and the Fort Wayne Komets would take advantage.
At 13:51, with the first penalty just about to expire, Jamie Schaafsma passed the puck to Garrett Thompson, who fired a shot that beat Nick Riopel. It was the 27th goal of the season for Thompson.
The Komets were still on the power-play and were looking to extend their lead, but it would be a great play by Ralph Cuddemi that would tie the score. Just 19 seconds after the Thompson goal, Cuddemi picked the Fort Wayne defenseman’s pocket, taking the puck and moving into the Komets end. The Thunder forward fired a wrist shot that went over the glove of Garrett Bartus and in for his team leading 29th goal of the year.
Three minutes later, Beaudry would take another penalty, but Wichita would get another short-handed goal to take their first lead of the contest. Mark MacMillan made a great play to gain control of the puck along the boards, leading to a 2-on-1 break the other way into the Fort Wayne end. At the last moment, he passed the puck across to Dyson Stevenson, who redirected the puck into the net for his 14th goal of the year, and second in as many games.
In the second, Ryan Van Stralen took a tripping penalty for the Thunder exactly one minute into the period, and the Komets would capitalize 13 seconds later. Using the exact same play they had utilized on their first goal, Dennis Kravchenko directed the puck toward Thompson, who was standing right in front of the goal. He directed the puck into the Wichita goal for his second of the game and the score was tied at two. Kravchenko and Schaafsma each had assists on the play, the second for each in the contest.
At 3:19 of the second, Etienne Boutet received a delay of game penalty, and the lethal Fort Wayne power-play delivered again. At 4:55 Shawn Syzdlowski passed the puck across to Thompson standing in the faceoff circle, and he blasted a one-timer in for the score, giving him a hat trick. The Komets led 3-2.
The Wichita Thunder would finally capitalize on their own power-play opportunity with just 56 seconds left in the second period. Brayden Low gave the puck to MacMillan, who blasted a shot that whistled by Bartus and in for his 2oth goal of the year.
Early in the third, the Komets had two golden opportunities to retake the lead, but Riopel came up big each time. The second of which came at 2:55 when the puck was passed from behind the net to Gabriel Desjardins who was alone in front of the net. He blasted a one-timer, but the Thunder goalie was able to move to get in front of the puck and make the save.
However, less than a minute, the Komets would retake the lead. Schaafsma was able to get control of the puck behind the goal and eventually passed it to Daniel Maggio at the blueline. Maggio fired a slap shot that beat Riopel up high for his sixth goal of the year, making it 4-3. Schaasfma earned his third assist of the game on the play.
With 9:04 left in the game, the Thunder would tie the score again. A shot by Ryan Van Stralen was saved, but there was a mad scramble in front of the net, and Chad Butcher would put in the rebound for his ninth goal of the year. MacMillan earned his second assist of the game on the score, giving him his third point of the contest and eighth in his last five games.
With a little over two minutes left in the game, Riopel made one of the most amazing saves you will ever see. The puck was passed across the crease to Mason Baptista who was all alone at the far post, but the Thunder goalie was able to come across and kick out his leg in time to stop the shot with his pad to keep the score tied.
Into the overtime the game went, where Riopel came up huge again. Jason Brinkley gained control of the puck in the neutral zone and entered the Thunder zone on a breakaway. He made a nice move, coming back to his forehand and firing up high, but the Wichita netminder made a great glove save, keeping the game alive.
However, ith 22 seconds left, the Fort Wayne Komets would win the game. Desjardins moved around the Thunder defender and fired a shot that beat the Thunder goalie for his 29th of the year. The loss was the fourth straight for Wichita (0-2-2) and moved them to 2-3-2 on their current eight game road trip.
The Thunder will travel to take on the Allen Americans in a huge contest on Wednesday. The Americans were buried by the Kansas City Mavericks on Saturday, moving them three points behind Wichita in the Mountain Division standings.
By Robert Pannier