It was Star Wars Night for the Wichita Thunder, who were hoping that they could draw on the force to get the team out of their recent struggles. The Thunder had dropped three straight and seven of their last nine, and it looked bad for them when the Allen Americans jumped out to the 1-0 lead. However, Shane Starrett rebounded from two tough outings to play like a Jedi master, stopping 40 shots in the 3-1 victory. Ralph Cuddemi added 2 goals and an assist for Wichita.
At the 12:32 mark, the Americans took the lead. Alex Guptill passed the puck to Marcus Basara, who skated in and put the backhander past Wichita goalie Shane Starrett for his second goal of the year.
Despite the goal allowed, Starrett was brilliant in net in the first, stopping 15 shots. That included a point with just five minutes left in the frame where he made a great save on Colby McAuley, the rebound came right out to Matthieu Aubin who took another shot on net, but Starrett got the glove hand out to keep the lead from becoming two.
Wichita would tie the score 3:44 into the second, thanks to some unintended help from the linesman. The Thunder entered the Allen end but Guillaume Lepine got tied up with the linesman, slowing down the 2-on-1. That proved to be helpful, as Lepine fired a shot that Jeremy Brodeur saved, but Ralph Cuddemi put the puck back in the net for his 10th goal of the season. Kevin Dufour earned an assist, giving him points in each of his three contests since being acquired by the Thunder.
The Thunder were dominating play for much of the second period, and that paid off when Etienne Boutet gave Wichita the lead with a little over a minute left in the period. Chad Butcher passed back to Boutet, who blasted a shot that Brodeur could not handle for his third goal of the season.
With about six minutes left in the game, Starrett made a huge save to keep his team in the lead. Alex Schoenborn gained control of the puck and headed in on a breakaway, but the Thunder goalie stoned him with a huge save.
Friday night’s contest had a lot of tension to it, as these two teams had a couple of huge fights. That furor extended into this game, as there were two major fights and two players ejected. The total of 78 minutes was a single game high for the Thunder this season, with Wichita earning 36 penalty minutes.
With 55 seconds left in the game, Cuddemi added his second goal of the game. With Brodeur pulled for the extra attacker, the Thunder forward put the puck in for his 11th goal of the year. That made it 3-1, which would be the final.
The victory snapped a three game losing streak for Wichita. Shane Starrett looked brilliant in net for the Thunder all night long, stopping 40 shots. It was a great outing for the Thunder goalie, who had struggled in his last two outings, being pulled in both games. However, he was clearly the difference maker in this contest. Ralph Cuddemi had two goals and an assist for Wichita.
The Wichita Thunder will look to even this little four-game mini-series tomorrow when they travel to Allen to take on the Americans. The puck drops at 4:00.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier