Early Onslaught Sends Wichita Thunder to 5-2 Victory
For the first ten minutes of Sunday afternoon’s game, the Wichita Thunder absolutely dominated their contest against the Rapid City Rush, using an early five goal onslaught to take a commanding lead. However, the Rush showed a lot of heart, dominating much of the last 50 minutes of the game, but goaltender Shane Starrett played extremely well in his second professional start to lead, stopping 26 shots in the Thunder’s 5-2 victory. That moved Wichita to 4-0-0 this season.
The Wichita Thunder would get on the board first, exactly two minutes into the game. While on the power-play, Matt DeBlouw battled two Rapid City players for the puck along the right side boards and was able to pass it back to defenseman Travis Brown. Brown swung the puck across the point to Jeremy Beaudry, who fired the one-timer into the net for his first goal of the season. That made it 1-0 Thunder.
At 6:06 it would be the other special teams that would extend the lead to two. With the Rush on the power-play, Keith Platzer read the pass across the blueline perfectly, intercepting it and heading the other way on a breakaway. He made a couple of nice moves with the puck, getting the goalie out of position and then tucking the puck just inside the right post for his third goal of the season, and the first short-handed goal by the Thunder this year.
Just a minute later the lead became three. With face-off inside the Rapid City end, the puck went behind the Rush net. Guillaume Asselin gained control and fired the puck in front to Travis Ewanyk, who buried it in the upper corner for his third goal of the season. That made it 3-0. The third goal in six shots led to Christian Frey being replaced by Storm Phaneuf.
Immediately following the goal, Rapid City Rush defenseman Michael Sdao attacked Ewanyk and was ejected from the game. That put the Thunder back on the power-play and they would take advantage right away. Just 48 seconds into the power-play, Platzer fired a shot from the point that beat Phaneuf over the shoulder for his second of the game.
The game turned ugly really quickly. At the 11:25 mark, Asselin relentlessly battled a Rush player along the boards and was able to come away with the puck. He then moved in on net and waited until the last possible second, getting the Rapid City defenseman out of position before he passed it across the goal mouth to Dyson Stevenson, who blasted the one-timer in for his first goal of the year. That made it 5-0.
The Rush were being thoroughly dominated in this game, giving up five goals on just 10 shots. They had a golden opportunity to get on the board when Samuel Thibault took a penalty with a little less than three minutes left in the first. Rapid City peppered shots toward the net, but the Thunder defense made four blocks, and netminder Shane Starrett did the rest. That included making a great kick save on a shot by Dylan Labbe with two minutes left in the first.
The second period started with the Rush putting a lot of pressure on the Thunder, dominating the puck inside the Wichita end. That eventually led to a power-play and Rapid City would take advantage. With the Thunder unable to clear the puck from their end, Ian Brady passed out front to Darik Angeli, who tipped the puck on net. Starrett got a piece of it, but it trickled between his arm and body into the net to make it 5-1. That was Angeli’s third goal of the season.
After the Thunder scored their fifth goal in the first, the Rush dominated this contest. They had 13 straight shots on net at one point and, in the second period, Wichita did not have a shot on net until there was nearly three minutes left in the frame. Rapid City was dominating the action.
Starrett and the Wichita defense held the Rush out of the net, however. That included a span of four minutes where DeBlouw was in the penalty box, serving a double minor for high sticking, and Rapid City recorded just one shot on net.
With 1:04 left in the second, the Rush had a golden opportunity to get back on the board. Alex Kromm was in the penalty box and, as his penalty expired, a great pass sent him in on net on a breakaway. The Thunder defender broke the play up but the referee awarded a penalty shot. Kromm skated in and made a couple of nice moves, eventually snapping a wrist shot, but Starrett was not to be fooled, making the save to preserve the four goal lead.
With just one second in the period, Rapid City had another golden opportunity. A mad scramble occurred in front of the net that led Starrett to the right side of the goal. The pass came out to Riley Weselowski, who had a wide open net, but the Wichita netminder came from out of nowhere to make the save on the other side of the goal just before the horn sounded. The Rush had outshot the Thunder 11-2 in the second.
In the third, the Rush would cut the deficit to three goals a little over five minutes into the period. With the Thunder unable to clear the puck out of their end, Jimmy DeVito passed the puck out in front to Alex Kromm, who was able to put the puck in for his second goal of the season.
With about 4:30 left in the contest, this almost became a two goal game. With Wichita on the power-play, the puck was knocked out into center ice, where Angeli corralled it and went in on a breakaway. He fired a wrist shot, but Starrett stood tall to block down the shot and preserve the three goal lead.
The Wichita Thunder broke out of a 0-12 slump on their power-play, going 2-6 with Kyle Platzer scoring one goal and Jeremy Beaudry getting the other. Platzer finished with 2 goals and an assist. Guillaume Asselin had 2 assists as did Travis Brown. Shane Starrett made 26 saves in moving to 2-0-0 this season.
After starting the season with four straight games at home, the Thunder head to the road for the first time, playing a mid-week affair against the Tulsa Oilers on Wednesday. The puck drops at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier