Safin OT Winner Early Present for Thunder, 3-2
The Wichita Thunder received a little holiday cheer on Sunday as Ostap Safin scored 2:25 into overtime to give the team a 3-2 victory over the Allen Americans. The Thunder had lost three of their last four and had to be felling a little blue after giving up a two goal lead in the final 21 minutes of the game, but Safin’s 11th goal of the year sent the crowd of nearly 3000 home with a little early Christmas present.
The first period was a tough, tight-checking affair that saw just eight total shots fired on net. That included a stretch of over six minutes where neither team was able to record a shot.
Following the first intermission, it was like two different teams came out of the locker room. This was a wide open period that saw Allen outshoot Wichita 13-12. The Thunder had several golden opportunities to score early in the period, especially near the four minute mark. Stefan Fournier had four shots on Americans goaltender Zach Sawchenko in the span of 24 seconds, but came away empty-handed each time as the Allen netminder stood his ground.
At the 5:34 mark, the Wichita Thunder finally took the lead. Sawchenko attempted to clear the puck down the center of the ice, lifting it in the air, but Jason Salvaggio made a great play to knock it down with his hand, putting it right onto his stick. He made a nice move to his forehand, getting Sawchenko to shift to his right before going back to his backhand to put the puck in for his fifth goal of the year.
Six minutes later, the Thunder extended their lead to two, thanks to another bad turnover by the Americans. With the puck behind the net, the Allen defender attempted to clear it up the boards, but it went right to Billy Exell. He fired a wrist shot found the far corner of the net for his third goal of the year, giving Wichita a 2-0 lead.
The Americans had been shut down by Stuart Skinner through the first 39 minutes of the game, but they would score a power-play goal with 11 seconds left in the second to cut the deficit in half. Stepan Falkovsky’s shot was knocked down by Skinner, but the puck was loose in front of the net. Jordan Topping was hounded by two Thunder defensemen, but somehow was able to break loose enough to put the shot over Skinner’s shoulder for his 1oth goal of the year.
Allen came out of the second intermission and dominated the third, outshooting Wichita 16-7. They would tie the score 1:12 into the frame.
Tyler Sheehy had the puck at the corner of the net. He passed it to Brett Pollock in the slot who blasted the one-timer that Skinner saved. However, the rebound came right to Sheehy who was left unguarded. He tucked the puck into the net for his 14th goal of the year, tying the score at two.
The score remained tied through regulation, forcing overtime. Just 25 seconds into the extra session, the Wichita Thunder were on the power-play. Patrik Parkkonen had the puck along the blueline. He passed the puck to Safin, who fired a wrist shot from the center of the blueline that shot over the shoulder of Sawchenko for his 11th goal of the year.
Skinner had a big night in the net, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced. That was his second win in his three starts since joining the Thunder.
The Thunder (14-13-5) head to Christmas break. They will be in Rush City on Friday to take on the Rush. The puck drops at 8:05 CT.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image by Wichita Thunder