The Wichita Thunder welcomed the Rapid City Rush to town on Thursday, as both teams found themselves on the outside of the playoff chase looking for a spark to begin a playoff run. The two teams were separated by a single point coming into the game and that showed in the intensity of the contest, as this had the feel of a playoff game. The score was tied heading to the final two minutes of the contest when Jeremy Beaudry would give the Thunder the lead with a power-play goal and Dylan Wells made that stand with 27 saves.
The Rapid City Rush looked like they would get a great chance to take a commanding lead early when Pierre-Cedric Labrie was assessed a five minute penalty and a game misconduct just 49 seconds into the game. However, it would be the Wichita Thunder who would get a short-handed goal to take the early lead.
With just under one minute left in the penalty, Jakob Stukel beat the Rapid City defenseman to a dump in pass behind the net. Brad Barone seemed to be nonchalant about the Thunder forward behind his net. Stukel moved to his left, diving ahead to wrap the shot around and inside of the post for his 16th goal of the year. For Stukel, it was his sixth straight game with a point.
Rapid City had outshot Wichita 10-6 in the first, but the Stukel’s goal held as the only goal in the first frame. However, the Rush would tie the score 69 seconds into the second. Sam Wilbur moved down the slot before passing the puck to Justin Faryna near the left faceoff circle. He moved in on net, sweeping across the goal before tucking the puck between Dylan Wells legs for his fifth goal of the year.
It would remain a 1-1 tie through a fierce third period. Wichita had outshot 10-6 in the second and was outshooting the Rush 15-9 in the third but could not get the goal ahead goal. However, with 2:07 left in the game and the Thunder on the power-play, a clearing pass was stopped by Jared Wilson. He passed the puck across the point to Jeremy Beaudry who blasted a shot by Barone for his sixth goal of the year.
The Rush would get a power play chance moments later which would turn into a 5-on-3 with 55 seconds left. However, Wells made three saves in the final minute to preserve the victory. He made 27 saves.
The victory moved the Wichita Thunder ahead of Rapid City and into fifth place in the Mountain Division. The Thunder will begin a big five game road trip starting on Wednesday when they travel to Idaho to play a three game series against the Steelheads. The puck drops at 8:10 CT.
By Robert Pannier