The Wichita Thunder have led in every game of their first round series with the Colorado Eagles, only to watch the Eagles come back in the first three games to win. It looked like that would be the case Saturday night as well, as the Thunder had a 4-2 lead entering the third, only to see Colorado battle back to tie it with less than 90 seconds left in the contest. However, Ryan Van Stralen would send the series back to Wichita, scoring the game winner just 21 seconds into overtime to give the Thunder the 5-4 victory.
For the sixth time in this series, the Wichita Thunder jumped out in front first. At 7:03 of the first, Evan Polei would steal the puck and head the other direction on a breakaway. He beat Joe Cannata with the backhand for his second goal of the playoffs, and the Thunder were on top 1-0.
The lead did not last long as Ryan Harrison tied the score a little over a minute later. Cliff Watson fed Harrison, who beat Shane Starrett with his second goal of the playoffs.
Just before the 13 minute mark, the Thunder would retake the lead. Samuel Thibault’s shot was blocked near the front of the net, but Brayden Low directed the puck out of midair and into the goal for his first of the playoffs.
Colorado entered the second period trailing, but would get the equalizer just past the three minute mark. Travis Barron made a great pass out of his own end that sent Julien Nantel on a breakaway. He beat Starrett with a backhand and the score was tied at two.
The score remained tied until Mark MacMillan gave Wichita back the lead at 12:38. With the Eagles on a power-play, MacMillan stole the puck and moved in on Cannata. He dragged his toe to slow himself down, which reduced his momentum enough that he beat the Eagles goalie for his second goal of the post-season.
At the 16:05 mark, the lead became two. Chad Butcher won the draw inside the Eagles end back to Dyson Stevenson. Stevenson made a great pass across to Ryan Van Stralen, who buried the one-timer for his second goal of the post-season.
The Wichita Thunder entered the third flying. They had been outshot 20-12 through the first two frames, but were making the most of their opportunities.
However, the third period was completely dominated by the Colorado Eagles, as they took the first nine shots of the period. That would eventually pay off at 5:50, when Michael Joly passed the puck to J.C. Beaudin, who scored his third goal of the post-season to make it 4-3.
The Eagles continued to put the pressure on, outshooting Wichita in the third 20-4. That eventually led to Drayson Bowman scoring his second goal of the playoffs to tie the score with just 87 seconds left in regulation.
The game to overtime and it felt like impending doom was coming the way of the Wichita Thunder, but it would be Van Stralen that would send the series back to Kansas. Just 21 seconds into the extra frame, the Thunder forward intercepted a pass and headed toward Cannata, He beat the netminder with his second goal of the game to give Wichita the 5-4 victory.
Ryan Van Stralen finished with 2 goals and Jeremy Beaudry had 2 assists for the Thunder. Matt Register had 2 assists for Colorado.
Game 6 will be Monday night in Wichita. The opening faceoff is set for 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier