Six minutes into Saturday night’s game, the Wichita Thunder had to feel like they were going to blow out the Allen Americans. Up by three this game looked all but over, but four unanswered goals by the Americans helped Allen to rally on their way to the 4-3 victory. Spencer Asuchuk scored the game winning goal, and goaltender C.J. Motte overcame a tough start to earn the win.
The Wichita Thunder needed to get the lead in this contest, and Ralph Cuddemi obliged 2:07 into the contest. With the faceoff in the Allen end, Stephen Iacobellis won the draw back to Cuddemi. He skated about 10 feet into the slot, then beat C.J. Motte over the should with a wrist shot for his 17th goal of the year.
A little over five minutes into the game it would be a beautiful set of passes that would put the Thunder up 2-0. Tyler Elbrecht brought the puck into the Americans end. He passed it quickly to Jesse Gabrielle, who made a great quick pass across the slot to Cuddemi. The Thunder forward fired a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Motte for his second goal of the game.
A little over a minute later the lead become three. Jeremy Beaudry gained control of the puck in the Allen end and fired a pass to Iacobellis, who was just above the right faceoff circle. He blasted a one timer that beat Motte to the far side of the net for his 13th goal of the year. That was the third goal of the game for Wichita on just eight shots.
From there, Stuart Skinner was absolutely brilliant. The Thunder had outshot Allen 8-3 through the first six minutes of the game, but the Americans would record 16 of the next 21 shots. However, the Thunder goalie came up with save after save, keeping his team on top by three.
Finally, the Allen Americans would break through with a little less than two minutes left in the second. A shot by Johnny McInnis was saved by Skinner but the rebound was loose in front of the net. A man scramble ensued, and it looked like the Thunder goalie had covered the puck, but the referee continued to allow play to continue. That allowed Mitch Maloney to knock the puck up and in for his fourth goal of the season and second in two games.
Less than a minute later, the Americans nearly cut the deficit to one. With Wichita on the power-play, Riley Bourbonnais was able to gain control of the puck at his own blueline, then headed the other direction on a 2-on-1. He lured the defender toward his side, then made a great pass across to Spencer Asuchuk who tipped the puck toward the corner of the net. However, Skinner slid over and made a great kick save to deny the chance.
Moments later they would score to pull with in one. At the 1:52 mark, Zach Pochiro, who had four goals against the Thunder on Friday, passed the puck to Chase Lang, who beat Skinner with his third goal of the year.
A little less than six minutes into the frame, the Americans would tie the score. While on the power-play, David Makowski passed the puck to Alex Breton, who blasted the one-timer in for his sixth goal of the year.
At the nine minute mark, the Thunder netminder bailed his team out with a huge save. The blast from the faceoff circle seemed destined for the back of the net, but Skinner quickly flashed out his glove, making the save.
Two minutes later, Allen thought they had the go ahead go. The shot beat Skinner, but the referee waved it off because Asuchuk had interfered with the Wichita netminder.
With 4:30 left in the game, Wichita almost retook the lead. The Thunder entered the Allen end on a 2-on-1 break. Adam Miller was able to get a piece of the pass but deflected it right onto the goal. Motte was able to make a nice play on his own player, sliding over to make the save with his chest.
That proved to be huge as Asuchuk would give his team the lead with a power-play goal with three minutes left in the game. Pochiro passed the puck to Asuchuk, who blasted the one-timer in for his 13th goal of the year. That made it 4-3, which would be the final.
The loss was the seventh in a row for Wichita. Ralph Cuddemi had two goals for the Thunder. Zach Pochiro had two assists and C.J. Motte rebounded from a tough start to stop 25 shots.
These two teams will meet again on Sunday afternoon in Wichita. The puck drops at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier