Two nights after being dominated by the Tulsa Oilers in Oklahoma, 6-3, the Wichita Thunder were looking for a super hero like performance, and thanks to a smothering defense that limited the Oilers to just 30 shots, the Thunder were able to skate away with the 4-1 victory. On Batman night at INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita used two late goals in the first period and then road the Superman performance by the defense in an effort that was a marvel. Chad Butcher had 3 assists and Shaquille Merasty had the first 2 goal performance of his professional career.
With about six minutes gone in the first, the Tulsa Oilers had a big opportunity to take the lead. The faceoff in the Wichita end was won back to the point, where the Tulsa defenseman passed to Dan DeSalvo who was standing all alone in front of the net. He made a nice move to his backhand, but Joel Rumpel was able to kick his pad out to keep the puck out of the net on a move that was truly reminiscent of Batman night as he was robbin’ DeSalvo.
However, Tulsa would go on the power-play moments later and they would capitalize just 24 seconds into the man advantage. The puck was worked out to center ice, where DeSalvo gained control and worked up some speed heading toward the Wichita end. That drew a penalty for hooking by the Thunder defender, but before the Oilers were able to get their goalie off the ice for the extra attacker, DeSalvo fired a shot over Rumpel’s shoulder for his third goal of the season.
The Thunder had a golden opportunity to tie the score at 11;46 of the period. The puck was passed to Ralph Cuddemi, who was wide open in front of the net. Cuddemi fired a wrist shot that Devin Williams was able to get a piece of to deflect away from the net.
With a little over five minutes left in the first, the Wichita Thunder tied the score. Using excellent puck movement, Chad Butcher passed the puck back to the point to Travis Brown. Brown faked a shot, then passed the puck to Shaquille Merasty who was positioned about two feet from the goal line near the right side boards. Merasty fired a bad angle shot that Williams stopped but he could not control the puck as it sputtered off his shoulder and into the net for the second goal of the season for the Thunder forward.
At the 17:49 mark, Wichita took the lead. ‘With the man advantage, the power-play unit was moving the puck around beautifully, getting several great scoring chances, but Williams was up to the task. However, just as the penalty ended, Cuddemi passed the puck down near the faceoff circle to Butcher. Butcher attempted to pass the puck to the middle where Kevin Dufour had set up shop, but the puck was knocked down. Dufour was able to gain control, doing a 180 with the puck and firing it under the pads of the Tulsa goalie for his 12th goal of the season.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period. The Wichita defense was smothering, allowing just five shots to the visitors in the frame. The Tulsa Oilers even had a four minute stretch where they were on the man advantage and could only muster three shots on net, including none in the final two minutes.
At the 8:28 mark in the third it looked like Tulsa had the equalizer for sure. Steven Kaunisto came down the left hand boards with great speed, swooping in front of the net, where he took a shot that Rumpel was somehow able to save. The puck rebounded out in front and was knocked to the side to Kale Kessey who was standing alone at the side of the net. He fired the puck on the empty goal, but the Thunder goalie crawled his way toward the pipe, diving at the last second to make the save and cover up.
With exactly three minutes left in the game, Merasty put this game away. He fired a shot from the right side boards that found its way through the pads of the Oilers goalie and into the net for his third goal of the season. That made it 3-1.
Wichita added an empty net by Kyle Platzer to close it out. That was his eighth goal of the year.
Joel Rumpel finished with 30 saves for the Wichita Thunder. Shaquille Merasty had 2 goals and Chad Butcher had 3 assists for the winners. Devin Williams was brilliant in the net for Tulsa despite taking the loss, stopping 26 shots.
The Wichita Thunder travel to Moline, Illinois to take on the Quad City Mallards on Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier