The Utah Grizzlies looked like they were going to continue their domination of the Wichita Thunder on Saturday, as they jumped out to a 4-1 lead with three second period goals. However, the Thunder would rally with three goals in the final frame, forcing overtime, where Jakob Stukel would win it with his second goal of the game. That moved the Thunder to 46 points this season (19-19-5).
On Friday, the post proved to be the Grizzlies’ best friend as the Thunder hit the post four times in the contest, and that proved to be the case early on Saturday as well. At the 5:30 mark, the pass came back to Jeremy Beaudry high in the slot. He fired a shot that got past Kevin Carr but hit off the post and out.
Four minutes later the Grizzlies would be on the power-play and they would capitalize with seven seconds left in the man advantage. The initial shot by Gage Ausmus was saved, but the rebound came to Mike Economos, who put it in to give Utah a 1-0 lead. It was the fifth goal of the season for Economos, three of which have come against Wichita.
It took almost 90 minutes for the Wichita Thunder to get on the board against Utah goalie Kevin Carr, after Carr blanked them the night before, but at the midway point of the second the Thunder would get on board. Taylor Cammarata passed the puck behind the net to Stefan Fournier. Fournier swept out from behind the net, moving about six feet to the left of Carr before firing a wrist shot that beat the Grizzlies goaltender for his seventh goal of the year.
The game stayed tied for exactly nine seconds as the Utah Grizzlies would get right back on top. Josh Dickinson won the faceoff to Eric Freschi. Freschi passed the puck ahead to Ryan Walters as he was entering the Thunder end. He moved in on Rimmer alone, getting the Wichita goaltender to the ice with a nice move before tucking the puck in for his 10th goal of the season and second in as many nights.
With four minutes left in the second, Economos would add his second power-play goal of the game. He took a pass from J.T. Henke, then fired a shot that hit just under the crossbar and in for the fourth power-play goal by the Grizzlies in two games. That made it 3-1.
With 51 seconds left in the frame, the Utah Grizzlies would extend their lead to three. Caleb Hebert made a great pass to Walters who buried the one-timer for his second goal of the game.
The Thunder were in need of a spark and they got it 1:20 into the second. Jakob Stukel came down the right boards with a head of steam. He swooped behind the net coming out in front, where he passed the puck across the goal mouth to Lane Bauer. Bauer quickly corralled the puck before putting a wrist shot into the top corner for his third goal of the year. That cut the Thunder deficit to two.
With 3:36 left in the game and the faceoff deep in the Grizzlies end, Stukel would make this a one goal affair. Ryan Van Stralen won the draw to Stukel, who would go right to the net. His initial shot was saved, but Carr could not cover the puck. Stukel stayed with the puck, gaining control before putting it over the top of the Utah goalie who was down on the ice. That was the 1oth goal of the season for Stukel and his second point of the night.
Less than a minute later, Travis Brown would tie the score. Jeremy Beaudry had control of the puck along the left boards in the Grizzlies end. He fired a pass to the other side, where Brown was positioned at the point. The defenseman blasted a slapshot that went high into the corner for his 11th goal of the season and third in his last four games.
It took just 34 seconds into overtime before the Thunder would win it. Wichita gained control of the faceoff, taking it into the Grizzlies end. The puck looked like it would be knocked out of the zone, but Stukel kept control of the puck at the blue line. He weaved his way through two Utah defenders before firing a wrist shot that beat Carr with the game winner. It was his second goal of the game and third point of the night.
Besides the two goals by both Economos and Walters, J.T. Henke had two assists. Jeremy Beaudry had two assists for the Thunder. Lane Bauer had a goal and an assist.
The Wichita Thunder end their five game homestand on Tuesday when they welcome the Allen Americans. Allen is in last place in the Mountain Division, but has won the last two games between these two teams (January 12-13).
By Robert Pannier