Stefan Fournier Hat Trick Propels Thunder to 4-1 Victory
They say that you should always save your very best for last and Stefan Fournier heeded those words, delivering the first home hat trick of the season for the Wichita Thunder in the 4-1 victory over the Allen Americans. Van Stralen and Lane Bauer each had 2 assists and Stuart Skinner saved 32 shots. That gave the Thunder an 18-13-4-1 record at home this season.
The Thunder put the pressure on early and had a couple of good scoring chances that went wide, but it would be the Allen Americans that would take the lead. At 7:37 of the first, Dante Salituro sent Braylon Shmyr into the Wichita end with a great outlet pass. Shmyr headed toward the net, knocking the Thunder defender into goaltender Stuart Skinner. Shmyr then passed the puck across the goal crease to Spencer Asuchuk, who tapped the backhand in for his 19th goal of the year.
The Americans held onto the lead through the first period, but a fortunate break for the Wichita Thunder would tie the score at the 1:34 mark of the second. With Allen on the power-play, Lane Bauer was able to gain control of the puck. Stefan Fournier came out of the penalty box and Bauer fired a pass up the boards to Fournier as he entered the Americans end. The forward whiffed on his initial shot as he approached the net, but an Allen defender ran into his goalie, giving Fournier some room to the far side of the net and he drilled it in for his 16th goal of the year.
The score was tied heading into the third period when the Thunder would take advantage of an early goal to take their first lead of the contest. At 1:45, it was the Bauer-Fournier combination once again. Bauer built up a head of steam heading through the neutral zone and into the Americans end. As he drew the defender to him, Bauer passed the puck to Fournier, who swept in front of the net, sliding the puck under Lukas Hafner and in for his second goal of the game.
With 10:05 left in the contest, Fournier would complete the hat trick. Ryan Van Stralen carried the puck into the Allen end on a 2-on-1. When he got about 10 feet from the net, he laid a perfect pass in front of Fournier that he tipped in for his third goal of the game. That made it 3-1.
With a little over five minutes left in the game, Asuchuk took a double minor for the Americans. Just 22 seconds later, Mark MacMillan swept across the slot. As the defender moved toward him, he passed the puck to Stephen Iacobellis. Iacobellis moved in to the side of Hafner, wristing it between his legs for his 22nd goal of the year.
The Wichita Thunder will complete their season when they travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to take on the Tulsa Oilers. Tulsa will be looking to solidify the top spot in the Mountain Division. The puck drops at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image by Ed Bailey