Starrett, Fournier Each Net Pair in Thunder 5-2 Victory
The Wichita Thunder won their fifth game out of the last six, defeating the Rapid City Rush 5-2 on Sunday. It was the second straight victory over the Rush and pushed the Thunder to 5-3-1 at home this season. Both Beau Starrett and Stefan Fournier had a pair of goals and Hayden Lavigne earned his first ECHL victory, stopping 39 shots.
Wichita dominated this contest from the start, outshooting Rapid City 13-10 in the first period. That helped to give them a 3-0 lead heading to the first intermission. The game was scoreless through the first 12 minutes but Starrett changed that at the 12:45 mark. Cam Clarke, who had recorded his first professional goal the night before, fired a shot that Taran Kozun saved, but the rebound came right to Starrett, who fired it in for his first goal of the season.
Just 15 seconds later, Starrett was back on the board. Chantz Petruic made a great pass across the slot to Starrett who was all alone. He fired a wrister that beat the Rush netminder between the legs to give Wichita a 2-0 lead.
A little over two minutes later, the Thunder extended the lead to three. With Wichita on the power play, Gordie Green passed the puck across the crease to Fournier who redirected it in for his fifth tally of the year.
Wichita had dominated the first period, but they were not done heading into the second. Just after the five-minute mark, Fournier netted his second goal of the game to extend the Thunder lead to four. Noel Hoefenmayer dished a pass to Fournier, who blasted a one-timer past Kozun.
The Rush were in a huge hole, but they showed a lot of heart, battling back behind 18 shots in the second period that eventually led to a goal. At the 15:27 mark, Avery Peterson took a shot that Lavigne knocked down. The puck was loose near the crease and Peter Quenneville put it in for his third goal of the season.
Just before the two-minute mark in the third, the Rush were back on the board. A bad giveaway gave Cedric Montminy the puck in the Thunder end. He fired a back-hander from just inside the face-off circle that beat Lavigne over the shoulder, and suddenly Rapid City was right back in the contest.
However, they would get no closer. Lavigne continued to shine in his pro debut. The former Michigan Wolverines standout made 12 more saves in the third period, including two huge ones in the final 80 seconds when Rapid City had the man-advantage and had pulled their goalie for the extra attacker.
Bobby McMann sealed the victory with an empty net goal with 17 seconds left on the clock. It was his fifth goal of the year. He had an assist as well.
The victory moved Wichita to 9-3-1 (19 points), five points behind the Allen Americans for first place in the Western Conference. The Thunder will have a chance to dig into that lead on Wednesday when they travel to Allen to take on the Americans for the first of three games between the teams. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier