The Colorado Eagles will move to the American Hockey League next season, and the Wichita Thunder are not going to be shedding a tear about that whatsoever. The Eagles have long been a nemesis to the Thunder, and that proved to be the case Wednesday night as Wichita fell behind 3-0, battled back to tie the score, before giving up a late goal to fall 4-3. Matt Garbowsky and Drayson Bowman each had a goal and an assist for Colorado, as the Eagles moved their lead over the Thunder to three points in the Mountain Division.
It took just 87 seconds into the game before Colorado had the lead. Michael Joly passed the puck to Matt Grabowsky who beat Thunder goalie Joel Rumpel for his seventh goal of the year.
About half way through the first the lead became two. The Eagles raced into the Thunder end, where the puck was thrown back near the boards. Matt Register fired a shot that Rumpel saved, but Drayson Bowman knocked the puck out of the air and into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
Bowman gave the Eagles a three goal lead just 83 later. Bowman received a pass near the right face-off circle and fired a wrist shot that beat Rumpel for his seventh goal of the year. That made it 3-0.
After being dominated for much of the first period, the Thunder would finally get on the board thanks to a nice play by Travis Ewanyk. With 3:16 left in the period, Ewanyk was able to battle and gain control of the puck along the boards. He moved on net and fired a shot that Sam Brittain saved, but the goalie could not keep Steven Iacobellis from putting the rebound in. That was the third goal of the season for Iacobellis, making it 3-1.
With a little less than nine minutes left in the second, the Thunder would make this a one goal game. Greg Chase gained control of the puck right by the side of the net, and looked like he had no space to put the puck in the net, but he managed to squeeze the puck somewhere between Brittain and the post for his seventh goal of the season.
The comeback became complete when Ewanyk scored his eighth goal of the season to tie the score. The Wichita forward fired a blistering wrist shot from just to the right of the face-off circle which beat Brittain to make it 3-3.
At the 9:15 mark it looked like Colorado would retake the lead. Matt Register fired a shot that beat Rumpel, but it hit off the post and bounced harmlessly away. About two minutes later, Ryan Harrison fired a wrist shot from the face-off circle that Rumpel made a great glove save on to keep the puck out of the net.
Finally, the Eagles would retake the lead. With the puck behind the Thunder net, Joey Ratelle took the puck away from the Wichita defenseman and moved in front of the net where he beat the Thunder goalie for his ninth goal of the year to make it 4-3. That would be the final.
The loss was the third in a row for the Thunder, their longest losing streak of the season. They still have two more games on this five game road trip.
Sam Brittain made 27 saves for Colorado to earn his seventh win of the year. Drayson Bowman and Matt Grawbosky each scored a goal and added an assist. Matt Register had 2 assists. Travis Ewanyk had a goal and an assist for Wichita.
The Thunder move onto Idaho where they will play the first of two games starting Friday night. Faceoff is 7:10 local time.
By Robert Pannier