‘New Kids on the Ice’ Lead Thunder to Victory in Rapid City
RAPID CITY – SD – They may not be a boy band, but the Wichita Thunder version of the New Kids had their own hits on Thursday, combining to record seven points to lead the team to a 6-4 victory over the Rapid City Rush on Thursday. With Brayden Watts still out, Head Coach Bruce Ramsay moved Peter Bates to the ‘Kid Line,’ putting three rookies on the same line together. Bates and Quinn Preston each had a goal and an assist and Michal Stinil added three assists. The victory snapped a six-game winless streak for the team.
Rapid City had the better of the play early, thanks to three power-plays, including a 5-on-3 advantage. However, the Thunder penalty killers were great, limiting the Rush’s opportunities.
About 13 minutes into the contest the Thunder had their own two-man advantage and responded with two goals to jump out in front. At 14:11, Cole MacDonald put his team on top with his seventh goal of the year. Stinil passed the puck to the point to Mac Donald, who slowly moved across the high slot, waiting for a screen to develop before lifting a wrist shot that beat Daniil Chechelev over the blocker to make it 1-0.
It took just 78 before the Thunder extended the lead to two. As the penalty to Logan Nelson was expiring, Kyle Rhodes took a pass from Mark Liwiski and beat the Rush netminder with his third goal of the year.
The Thunder had been outplayed in the first, but held a 2-0 lead coming out of the first intermission. The lead became three 9:10 into the second when Brett Van Os scored his seventh goal of the season. Liwiski made a great pass off the half-boards into the slot where Van Os redirected the puck past Chechelev and it looked like the Thunder were going to blow out Rapid City.
However, Brett Gravelle responded just after the halfway point of the period, cutting the Rush deficit to two. Carter Robertson’s shot was saved by Roman Basran, but Gravelle found the rebound, putting in just inside the near post for his ninth tally of the year.
Preston restored the three-goal lead 69 seconds later, scoring his 20th goal of the year. Stinil led a rush out of the Wichita end, through the neutral zone and into the Rush zone. He waited for Preston to approach the net before passing the puck to him. Preston put a shot by Chechelev to make it 4-1. Preston ran into Chechelev on the play as Adam Carlson came on.
Rapid City was down by three one again, but responded with two goals in the final 4:18 to cut the deficit to one. Alex Carlson scored his first goal of the year at 15:42 when he blasted a shot from the point that Basran never saw. With 1:41 left and the Rush on the power-play, Robertson took a shot from the point that Nelson redirected to the corner of the net for his 17th of the season.
The Thunder clung to the one-goal lead, but Max Coatta tied the scored at 10:20, netting the second power-play goal of the game for Rapid City. Jimmy Soper was battling for the puck behind the net and was able to knock it to Coatta, who quickly went to the far corner of the net, using a wraparound backhander to beat Basran to tie the score at four.
Wichita was suddenly on their heels, but Bates netted his 13th goal of the season 79 seconds later to put Wichita back on top. Stinil put a pass into the slot that was knocked down in front. The puck was loose in front of the net. Bates dove to his belly, getting enough on the puck to put it past Carlson to make it 5-4.
With 2:05 left in the game, Rapid City went on the power-play and pulled Carlson looking for the equalizer. The Rush had four great opportunities with the man-advantage, but Basran kept the puck out. With 26 seconds left, MacDonald blocked a shot from the point, then knocked down a pass attempt into the slot, feeding the puck to Jake Wahlin, who sent the puck the length of the ice and into the empty net for his 11th goal of the year.
Basran gave up four goals in the game, but he was absolutely brilliant, stopping 37 shots for his first professional victory. Liwiski added two assists in the game.
The Wichita Thunder (27-25-5) will take on the Rapid City Rush (24-30-1) again on Friday. The puck drops at 8:05 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier