The Wichita Thunder have found themselves on a roll of late, entering Saturday night’s contest looking for a season high fourth straight win. Thanks to another brilliant performance by Dylan Wells, the Thunder would skate away with the 4-1 victory moving them to within three points of the Rush for fifth place in the Mountain Division. Dyson Stevenson had a goal and an assist and Pierre-Cedric Labrie had two assists for Wichita.
As they had the night before, the Wichita Thunder would jump ahead of Rapid City about half way through the first period. While on a 5-on-3 power-play, Pierre-Cedric Labrie passed the puck back to Jeremy Beaudry at the point, who blasted a slapshot the Dyson Stevenson tipped past Michael Blitzer for his 10th goal of the year.
Just before the period ended, a bad bounce turned into a breakaway for Matt Harrington. Harrington looked to go between the legs of Dylan Wells, but the Thunder goalie was able to get his glove underneath himself, stopping the sliding puck to keep the Rush off the board.
At 4:15 of the second, the Thunder moved their lead to two. Labrie made a nice pass up to Stevenson, who put a pass right on Steven Iacobellis stick, allowing him to split two defenders as he drove to the net. He made a nice move, sliding the puck underneath Blitzer for his eighth goal of the year.
With 1:43 left in the second, Wichita moved their lead to three. Nolan Vesey moved in on goal from the left of Blitzer. As he closed in, he passed the puck across the crease to a wide open Ralph Cuddemi, who fired the puck in for his 10th goal of the year.
Dylan Wells had been brilliant all game, stopping 35 shots through the first 49 minutes, but the Rush would finally breakthrough at the 9:50 mark of the third. Garrett Klotz passed the puck to Cedric Montiminy who was alone at the side of the net. He would put it up and in for his fourth goal of the year to make it 3-1.
The Thunder would get that goal back about five minutes later, thanks to their second power-play goal of the game. Rapid City was able to put together a short-handed rush that gave them a scoring chance, but Cuddemi would gain control of the puck in his own end, passing it to Keoni Texeira. Texeira alertly found a wide open Stefan Fournier who was alone in the neutral zone, hitting him on the tape to send him in on a breakaway. Fournier beat Blitzer up high for his fourth goal of the year to make it 4-1.
Wells would earn his fifth straight win, stopping 39 shots. Nine different Thunder players had at least one point in the game.
The Thunder look to sweep this three game set against the Rush on Sunday. The puck drops at 4:00.
By Robert Pannier