The Wichita Thunder entered Saturday night’s game looking to extend their home win streak to six straight games. After jumping out to a two goal first period lead it looked like the victory was in the bag, however, the Kansas City Mavericks would battle back to tie the score with a pair of goals in the second. However, Nolan Vesey would record the game winner with a little under seven minutes left in the game to give Wichita the 3-2 victory. Stuart Skinner followed up his shutout on Thursday with his third straight win.
It did not take long for the Wichita Thunder to jump out in front. At 1:51 of the first, Cam Reid carried the puck from behind the Kansas City net. That drew the defenseman toward the puck carrier. Reid then passed to Mark MacMillan, whose shot went wide of the net, but right back to Reid. His shot was saved by Nick Schneider, but Keoni Texeira put in the rebound for his first professional goal.
The Thunder entered the game with the best power-play in the ECHL and that helped to produce their second goal of the game at the seven minute mark of the first. Texeira gave the puck to Dyson Stevenson, who made a great circle to circle pass to Ralph Cuddemi. Cuddemi buried the one-timer for his team leading 15th goal of the season to make it 2-0. The goal tied Cuddemi for fifth in the league in goals.
It would stay a two goal lead heading into the second period, when the Kansas City Mavericks would cut the deficit in half. A little over four minutes into the period the Mavericks were on the power-play when a bad break for the Thunder gave Kansas City a golden opportunity. Eric Roy’s stick broke behind the net, and as one of his teammates attempted to pass his stick back to the defenseman, Greg Betzold passed the puck to Jared VanWormer in front of the net, who tipped it in for his 13th goal of the year. That made it 2-1.
With 3:30 left in the second, VanWormer came a few inches away from tying the score. Willie Raskob fired a shot that Stuart Skinner saved, but the rebound was deflected off the ice to the other side of the net, where VanWormer swatted at the puck from out of the air. He got good wood on the puck, but it hit about two inches to the side of the net.
With just 45 seconds left in the second, the Mavericks would tie the score. Mark Cooper gained control of the puck in the corner, passing it out to Betzold near the side of the net. He fired a shot that beat Skinner over the blocker for his seventh goal of the year.
In the third, it looked like the Mavericks would take the lead. With about nine minutes left in the game, Cooper carried the puck into the Thunder end on a 2-on-1 break. He passed the puck across at the last moment to VanWormer, who redirected the puck to the corner of the goal. However, Skinner slid across and spread eagle to rob the Kansas City forward of what looked like a sure goal.
That proved to be huge as the Thunder would retake the lead with 6:41 left in the game. As the Mavericks defender carried the puck out of his own end, Jakob Stukel was able to force a turnover, passing the puck to Nolan Vesey. Vesey moved down the left wing, firing a hard wrist shot that beat Nick Schneider over his blocker for his third goal of the year.
Ralph Cuddemi and Keoni Texeira each had a goal and an assist for the Wichita Thunder. Stuart Skinner finished with 30 saves for his 10th win of the year. Nick Schneider made 34 saves for Kansas City, including three great stops in the third.
The Wichita Thunder welcome the Tulsa Oilers to town on Sunday. Game time is set for 4:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier