With a victory on Friday night, the Wichita Thunder guaranteed that they will win the Independence Cup over the Kansas City Mavericks. However, no one should have believed that the Mavericks were going to roll over as a result. Saturday night they found themselves trailing twice in the first period, only to battle back to tie the score each time, before taking control in the second on their way to a 7-4 victory. Eric Freschi had a huge night, scoring 5 points, and Matt Robertson and Greg Betzold added 3 points each in the victory.
Mark MacMillan brought the crowd to their feet just 1:35 into the game. While killing off a penalty, the Thunder forward stripped the puck from the Kansas City defenseman near the faceoff circle in the Mavericks end. He moved in on Mason McDonald, beating the Kansas City netminder for his 12th goal of the year.
The Mavericks would tie the score exactly eight minutes later. Eric Freschi fired a shot that Wichita goalie Shane Starrett was able to make the save on, but the rebound bounced out of his glove and into the air where Greg Betzold batted it in for his first goal of the year.
Ralph Cuddemi had chances early on, only to be denied by McDonald, but he would finally break through. Almost exactly four minutes after the Betzold goal, Cuddemi moved in on the net with MacMillan. He brilliantly used his knee to fend off the defender from being able to knock the puck way with his stick before putting the puck up and over the blocker of the Mavericks goalie and into the net for his ninth of the year.
Exactly one minute after the Cuddemi goal, the Mavericks tied the score again, and it would be Freschi that would be the scorer. The Kansas City forward received a pass from Betzold. He fired a shot that hit off the stick of Starrett and into the net for his second goal of the game. That would be it for the Thunder goalie as Joel Rumpel came in.
The move to bring in Rumpel paid dividends right away. With 3:13 left in the period, the pass came to Mark Cooper in the slot who fired a shot that Rumpel was able to make an amazing pad save on to keep the score tied.
The game remained tied for the first seven minutes of the second period, but at 7:21 Kansas City would gain their first lead of the game. A turnover by the Thunder near the redline sent the Mavericks in on a 2-on-1. Matt Robertson beat Rumpel just under the crossbar for his ninth goal of the season to make it 3-2.
Mark Cooper would extend the lead to two. The Mavericks forecheck generated a turnover in the Wichita end. Freschi made a brilliant no-look pass to Cooper who buried the wrist shot into the net for his seventh goal of the year.
The Mavericks were dominating this game, but a power-play opportunity put Wichita just one goal down. Following a foolish penalty by Hunter Smith, the Thunder capitalized right away. Just 40 seconds in to the man advantage, Lane Bauer fired a shot that was saved, but Kansas City could not clear away the puck and Dyson Stevenson put it in for his eighth goal of the year.
The Mavericks restored their two goal lead 5:25 into the third. Jordan Kwas passed the puck to Freschi, who moved through the Wichita defenseman, firing a shot and beating the Thunder goalie for his second goal of the game.
The Thunder were down, but they were not out by any stretch of the imagination. With a little less than eight minutes left in the game, Chad Butcher fired a shot that was saved, but Travis Ewanyk fired the puck on net. The save was made again, but Ewanyk was relentless, putting the puck back in for his ninth goal of the season. That made it 5-4.
Just 1:25 later, the Mavericks looked like they had regained the two goal lead. The Mavericks player was hauled down as he was heading for the net and ran into Rumpel. The puck slid into the net, but the goal was waved off on goaltender interference. However, the play did earn Kansas City a power-play.
It all proved to be for nothing, however. It took just nine seconds into the power-play before the lead was two again. The Mavericks won the faceoff as the puck was worked back to Bryce Aneloski. Aneloski fired a slapshot from the point that beat Rumpel for his third goal of the year.
The Mavericks added an empty net goal to ice the game. Justin Breton battled for the puck behind the Wichita net, taking it away and putting it in the net for his fifth goal of the season. The seventh goal allowed was a season high for the Wichita Thunder.
Eric Freschi had a huge game for the Kansas City Mavericks, scoring 2 goals and adding 3 assists. Greg Betzold had a goal and 2 assists as did Matt Robertson. Dyson Stevenson had a goal and an assist for Wichita.
The Thunder will have a little Christmas break now, having three days off before traveling to Allen to take on the Americans on Wednesday. Faceoff is at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier