Professor Gillam Instructs Kids, Admirals in Art of Goaltending in 6-2 Win
It was School Day at INTRUST Bank Arena on Wednesday morning, but it would be the Norfolk Admirals who would receive the education as the Wichita Thunder jumped out to a four goal lead before holding on for a 6-2 victory. Chris Crane had a goal and an assist and Mitch Gillam stopped 32 shots for the victory. The win was the fifth of the season for the Thunder.
With a raucous crowd of 7,000-plus elementary school kids on hand, the Wichita Thunder would get them fired up early with a goal 3:35 into the contest. Patrik Parkkonen took a perfect feed out of the Thunder end from Chris Crane, carrying it into the Norfolk end. He then made a pinpoint pass into the slot to Beau Starrett, who redirected the puck into the net for his second goal of the year.
At 12:23, the Wichita Thunder would get a big break to extend their lead to two. The puck was shot around the boards where Brendan De Jong would gain control to the right of Admirals’ goaltender Brandon Halverson. De Jong fired a shot on net and it looked like Halverson had the post well covered, but somehow the puck crept between his pad and the post for the first professional goal of De Jong’s career. That made it 2-0.
Less than three minutes later, a great move by Peter Crinella would make this a 3-0 lead. Billy Exell battled for puck deep in the Admirals end, gaining control before giving it to Crinella. Crinella quickly moved in front of the net before firing the back hander off the crossbar and in for his first ECHL goal.
The Thunder held onto their three goal lead through much of the second, and would finally extend their lead with a little less than two minutes left in the frame. Both teams had a man in the penalty box when Jacob Combs fired a shot that Halversen saved, but the rebound was left loose in front of the net. The Norfolk goaltender could not locate it but Crane could, stuffing the puck in for his seventh goal of the year and the 99th goal of his ECHL career. That made it 4-0.
The Admirals were being completely dominated, but they would get a huge goal with just 24 seconds before the end of the second period. The pass came back to the point to River Rymsha, who blasted a shot that went just under the crossbar for his second goal of the year. That made it a 4-1 Wichita lead heading to the second break.
The Admirals came out dominating play early in the third and it would result in a goal 3:31 into the frame. With the faceoff deep in the Wichita end, Josh Holmstrom won the draw back to Brayden Sherbinin at the point. He fired a low shot through a screen that Thunder goalie Mitch Gillam never saw, going off his leg pad and in to cut the Norfolk deficit to two.
The goal put the Thunder back on their heels as Norfolk controlled the action. They would have two great chances just after the eight minute mark. Dalton Gally fired a shot that Gillam saved, but the rebound came to Philippe Hudon, whose shot was saved as well.
With eight minutes left in the game, Garrett Schmitz provided an incredible lesson on the art of defense to keep this a two goal Thunder lead. Braylon Shymr gained control near his own blue line and headed toward the Thunder end on a breakaway. Schmitz sped back to get even with Shmyr. The Norfolk forward opted to wait for two of his teammates to enter the Wichita end giving his team a 3-on-1 advantage, but Schmitz was able to defend the play, taking away any passing lanes while denying a shot until his teammates could regroup.
The Thunder sealed the victory with a goal with a little more than three minutes left in the contest. Tommy Mele gained control of the puck behind the Admirals net. He passed it out to Fabrizio Ricci who was skating toward the Norfolk net. Ricci fired the one-timer in for his fourth goal of the year, extending the lead back to three.
With 19 seconds left in the game, Spencer Dorowicz added one more goal for Wichita. Ricci fed a pass to Dorowicz, who flat out battled his way through the defender before putting a wrist shot up and in for his fourth goal of the year.
Fabrizio Ricci had a goal and two assists to lead the offense. Chris Crane and Peter Crinella each finished with a goal and an assist for the Wichita Thunder. Patrik Parkkonen had two assists. Mitch Gillam finished with 32 saves.
The Thunder take to the ice again on Friday night when they welcome the Tulsa Oilers to town for the first of two games. The puck drops at 7:05 PM.
By Robert Pannier