Dylan Wells Returns to Corral Mavericks, Thunder Win 4-0
Goaltender Dylan Wells returned to the net for the Wichita Thunder on Friday after spending the last five weeks in Bakersfield (AHL). It was a welcome site for Stuart Skinner, who finally got a break, but also for the team as a whole, as Wells stopped all 27 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season in the Thunder 4-0 victory. The win also snapped the eight game losing streak for the Thunder (0-6-2). The victory moved Wichita into a tie for fourth place with the Mavericks in the Mountain Division.
Stefan Fournier also returned to the ice, skating for the first time since December, and he made his presence known right away. At 1:25 of the first period, Mark MacMillan carried the puck into the Kansas City end, heading toward the net. The puck was knocked off his stick, but Fournier swooped in, corralling the loose puck. He then swept across the neat, getting Nick Schneider down on his stomach as he moved to the opposite side of the goal before putting the wrist shot into the top corner for his fifth goal of the year.
It would not take long for the Thunder to make the lead two. At the three minute mark, Gabriel Verpaelst fired the puck on net, where Stephen Iacobellis swept across the goal, tipping the puck into the upper corner for his 14th goal of the season. That gave Wichita two goals on just three shots.
It would stay a two goal lead into the second, where the Thunder would use the power-play to extend their lead to three. At the 2:11 mark, MacMillan passed the puck to Jesse Gabriel who fired a wrist shot that Schneider got a piece of, but the puck trickled past his glove and across the goal line for his ninth goal of the year. That gave Gabriel points in three straight games.
Just past the 10 minute mark, Darian Dziurzynski received a pass that sent him in on Dylan Wells on a breakaway. He tried to tuck the puck between the Thunder goaltender’s legs, but Wells stoned him. The Mavericks then had two whacks at the rebound but could not get it past the Thunder goalie.
In the third, Kansas City would find themselves with a five minute power-play after Ryan Van Stralen was given a five minute penalty and a game misconduct. The Thunder penalty-killing units were stifling the Mavericks attack through the first three minutes, allowing just two shots, and would eventually create their own scoring chance.
At 8:39, Jacob Stukel gained control of the puck, heading the other way toward the Kansas City end. He entered the zone on a 2-on-1, but felt better about not trying to make the cross crease pass. Instead, he dropped it back to Keoni Texeira who was trailing the play. Texeira fired a wrist shot that beat Schneider up high to the far post for his third goal of the year. That was the first shot-handed goal for the Wichita Thunder since October 22.
Dylan Wells was outstanding in goal all night long. Wells stopped all 27 shots he faced, earning his sixth straight win in his first start for Wichita since December 8. Mark MacMillan had two assists in the game for the Thunder, and Keoni Texeira had a goal and an assist.
The special teams for the Wichita Thunder were a huge factor in the contest. The team was 1-4 on the power-play and shut down all eight power-play opportunities of the Mavericks, including a five minute major and a 5-on-3 at the end of the game.
The Wichita Thunder head to Kansas City to take on the Mavericks in Independence on Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:05.
Featured image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier