A night after being blanked by Tulsa Oilers goaltender Devin Williams, the Wichita Thunder came out fired up, scoring two goals in the first nine minutes of the contest on their way to a 4-1 victory. Ryan Van Stralen led the offense with a goal and 2 assists, and Nick Riopel continues to be impressive in net, stopping 28 shots for his 13th win of the season.
The Wichita Thunder came out with a much greater sense of urgency, and that paid off 3:48 into the game. Ralph Cuddemi passed the puck across to Ryan Van Stralen at the left face-off circle. He blasted the one-timer past Devin Williams for his fourth goal in just six games with the team.
The lead became two almost exactly five minutes later. Mark MacMillan made a great pass to Cuddemi, giving him a golden scoring chance and he delivered, putting in his team leading 26th goal of the year.
The Oilers had been completely dominated in the first period, as Wichita outshot them 15-2. However, Tulsa would take advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity to get back on the board. Penalties by Nolan Descoteaux and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Moron gave the Oilers a two-man advantage for 35 seconds, but the Thunder were able to kill off both penalties. However, they were not able to clear the puck out of their zone following the penalty kills and Tulsa took advantage as Ryan Tesink scored his 11th goal of the season against a tired penalty killing unit to make it 2-1.
At the 17:08 point of the second, MacMillan extended the lead back to two. Van Stralen made a great pass to MacMillan coming down the slot, who redirected the puck in for his 17th goal of the season. That ended a 17 game scoring drought for the Thunder forward.
Into the third the contest went, where Jon Puskar would put this game away. Chad Butcher’s pass sent Puskar in on a breakaway. He made a great move before beating Williams for his 15th goal of the year. That made it 4-1, which would be the final.
Ryan Van Stralen finished with three points for the Thunder. He now has 4 goals and 4 assists in 6 games since joining the team. Ralph Cuddemi had a goal and an assist. Nick Riopel stopped 28 shots in his fourth straight game between the pipes.
The victory extended the Thunder lead over the Tulsa Oilers to five points in the Mountain Division. The Wichita Thunder are off until Friday when they take on the Rapid City Rush in the first of two games between the two teams. The opening face-off is scheduled for 8:05 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier