The Wichita Thunder returned to Kalamazoo, looking to shake off Tuesday’s tough loss to the Kansas City Mavericks. However, the Wings proved to be inhospitable hosts, scoring two goals in each of the first two periods on their way to a 5-3 victory. Josh Pitt and Danny Moynihan, led the way with a goal and 2 assists each in the victory, dropping the Thunder to 2-3-1 on their current seven game road trip.
With Kalamazoo on a 5-on-3 power-play, it looked like they would take the lead 7:30 into the contest. The pass came to Justin Taylor, who was standing all alone in the front of the net. He fired a shot that Thunder goalie Nick Riopel made a great pad save on, but the puck came right back to Taylor who looked like he had an opening, but Riopel knocked the puck down and covered it up, forcing a faceoff.
The Wings had been denied, but 11 seconds later they would take the lead. While still on the two-man advantage, Danny Moynihan won the draw to Eric Kattelus. Kattelus passed the puck across the crease to Josh Pitts. Riopel tried to slide across the goal mouth to make the save, but Pitts got the puck in before he could reach the far post for his 30th goal of the season.
A little over a minute later, the Kalamazoo Wings looked to extend the lead to two. Aaron Irving received a great feed and entered the Thunder end on a breakaway. However, the Wichita netminder beautifully followed the puck movement and knocked down the forehand shot.
With 1:17 left in the first, the Wings would capitalize on another power-play opportunity. Kyle Bushee’s shot was saved by Riopel, but Lane Scheidl was parked right in front of the net, putting the rebound in for his 16th goal of the year.
At 3:52 of the second, it looked like the Thunder had cut the deficit in half. While on the power-play, Ryan Van Stralen took a shot that goalie Joel Martin saved, but the Wings netminder appeared to be pushed into his own net, pulling the puck across the goal line. The referee instantly waved it off, much to the disgruntlement of the Wichita coaching staff.
However, it proved to be moot. Just 29 seconds later, Riopel passed the puck up to Nolan Descoteaux just as the power-play expired. The puck was passed to Jeremy Beaudry, who blasted a shot just inside the blue line that sailed past Martin and in for his 13th goal of the year.
With 3:10 left in the second, the Kalamazoo Wings extended their lead back to two. A shot by Pitt was saved, but there was a mad scramble in front of the net, where the Thunder goalie got trapped by a scrum of players. Brendan Bradley gained control of the puck and made a smart play, passing it to a wide open Jimmy Mullin, who simply tipped it for his 19th goal of the year.
It only got worse from there. The Wings went on the power-play almost immediately following the goal, and would capitalize for their third time at 18:18. Pitt passed the puck to Moynihan, who beat Riopel for his 14th goal of the year. That made it 4-1. The goal gave Moynihan a goal and 2 assists on the evening. Pitt earned an assist on the play, also giving him a goal and 2 assists.
Into the third the game would go, where the Wichita Thunder made this a two goal game at the 7:24 mark of the period. With the draw in the Wings end, Mark MacMillan won the faceoff to Dyson Stevenson, who whistled a shot past Martin for his 13th goal of the year. That was his 100th career point.
With a little over three minutes left in the game, the Thunder pulled their goalie and they would pull within one with 1:09 left in the contest. With the faceoff in the Kalamazoo end, the Wings would actually win the draw, but the puck came to Beaudry, who passed it across the Nick Latta. Latta blasted the one-timer past the Wings goalie for his eighth goal of the year. That gave Beaudry a goal and an assist in the game.
The Thunder were riding high, but their hopes for a comeback ended when Kyle Blaney put in an empty-net score for his ninth goal of the year. That made it 5-3, which was the final.
The loss keeps the Wichita Thunder four points ahead of both the Tulsa Oilers and the Allen Americans for third place in the Mountain Division. The team travels to Fort Wayne to take on the Komets on Saturday night. The faceoff is scheduled for 6:30 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier