The Wichita Thunder looked to complete their three game weekend sweep of the Rapid City Rush on Sunday and were able to do so thanks to the second shutout of the season by goaltender Stuart Skinner in the 2-0 victory. The victory gave the Thunder five straight wins, their longest winning streak of the season, moving them to just one point behind Idaho and Rapid City for fourth place in the Mountain Division. Ralph Cuddemi led the offense with a goal and an assist.
With just under seven minutes in the first, the Thunder nearly took the lead. Nolan Vesey received a pass in the neutral zone that sent him into the Rapid City end on a breakaway. He moved to his left, then back to his right, getting Rush goalie Tyler Parks down on the ice, but the goaltender was able to reach out his glove, knocking the puck down to deny the chance.
The Rush had an opportunity to take their first lead in the three game series, when they had a two man advantage about five minutes into the second period. However, they would generate just two shots during the extended power-play opportunity, coming away empty-handed.
That proved to be critical as it would be the Wichita Thunder that would get on the board first. At 7:37 of the second, with the Thunder on the power-play, Dyson Stevenson made a great pass across the crease to Ralph Cuddemi, who buried the one-timer for his team leading 11th goal of the year to make it 1-0.
The Thunder would extend their lead to two with a little less than seven minutes left in the second period. Cuddemi passed the puck back to the point to Keoni Texeira, who fired a shot that Parks saved. However, the rebound came right out to Mark MacMillan, who banged it in for his sixth goal in nine games.
Two goals was plenty enough support for Stuart Skinner on this night. He made 30 saves, including denying Tyler Poulsen on a breakaway in the second period. The Wichita goaltender proved to the difference maker in this contest, especially in the second when the Thunder were outshot 12-10. However, it was Wichita that came away from the period with the lead. The victory snapped a personal five game losing streak for Skinner.
The combination of Skinner and Dylan Wells proved to be impressive during the three game series. The two netminders stopped 101 of 104 shots in the series.
Dyson Stevenson added an assist in the game, giving him five points in the three games against Rapid City. Ralph Cuddemi had a goal and an assist, as he also came away with five points from the weekend series.
The Wichita Thunder have won five straight and six of their last seven. They are off until Friday when they begin a swing through the north, starting with Fort Wayne on Friday. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier