It was a wild affair in Wichita on Friday night as an eight goal second period turned a 1-0 Thunder lead into a 5-4 lead heading into the third. The Americans would tie the score, sending the game to a shootout where Stuart Skinner would make three great saves to help give the Wichita Thunder the 6-5 victory. That moved the Thunder to 2-1-0 this season.
The Wichita Thunder would take control of this game early and nearly had their first goal just 40 seconds into the contest. Colin Larkin stole the puck at his own blueline and headed the other direction on a breakaway, but C.J. Motte was able to stop his wrist shot to the far post.
With 12 minutes left in the first, the Americans would create a turnover that nearly resulted in a score. The puck was stolen in the Thunder end and passed to Pavel Jenys cruising down the slot. He moved to his forehand, but Stuart Skinner kicked the shot away to keep the game scoreless.
Less than two minutes later, the Thunder would finally break through. A relentless forecheck caused the puck to be knocked off the Allen defenseman’s stick where Larkin knocked it to Ralph Cuddemi near the left faceoff circle. He turned and fired a wrist shot that beat Motte high to the far side of the net for his first goal of the season.
The Americans had dominated much of the final seven minutes of the second period, outshooting Wichita 8-3 during that span. They carried that momentum into the second period and it resulted in a goal 70 seconds into the frame. Spence Asuchak fired a shot that was saved by Skinner, but the puck came right out to Braylon Shmyr who redirected the rebound in for his second goal of the year. That tied the score at one.
Less than two minutes later they would be back on the board. David Makowski fired a shot on net from the point that Dante Salituro tipped up high and in for his second goal of the year.
Allen was dominating the play, but the Thunder would tie the score at 6:51 of the period. With a delayed penalty coming against the Americans, Larkin fired a shot from the point that missed the net, bouncing off the boards and right to Tyler Elbrecht. He quickly corralled the puck, moved just to the left of the net and first a shot up into the top corner for his first goal of the year. That tied the score at two.
The game took on a feverish pace at that point as there was great end-to-end action. That eventually led to a goal for the Americans as they would retake the lead. After Wichita nearly scored on a chance when the puck was loose in the air in front of the Allen net. Alex Breton knocked it away to Josh Thrower, who passed it ahead to Shymr, sending him in on a breakaway. With the Wichita defenseman draped all over him, he managed to still get off a shot, beating Skinner with his second goal of the game.
The lead lasted for less than two minutes as the Wichita Thunder would get it right back. The puck was passed ahead to Matt Schmalz who moved in on the Allen net. As he came within a few feet, he quickly passed across the crease to Hayden Hodgson who buried the puck in the back of the net to tie the score at three.
That fired up the Thunder who would retake the lead just 20 seconds later. Jared Wilson passed the puck ahead to Hodgson, who made a great pass to Dyson Stevenson, sending him in on a breakaway. He moved to his backhand, then swept across to his forehand, wristing the puck over Motte’s pad and into the net for his first goal of the season.
With 3:47 left in the period, the Thunder extended their lead to two. Greg Chase carried the puck into the Allen end, splitting two defensemen before heading in on goal. He was being pulled down and still had the presence of mind to pass the puck back to Stevenson who was heading down the slot. Stevenson used the defenseman to shield Motte, firing a wrist shot into the upper right corner for his second goal of the game. That made it 5-3.
A minute and a half later Allen would finally answer. A turnover in the Americans end sent Shymr down the right boards on a two-on-one. He looked like he was going to make the pass across the crease, then shifted to his right, getting Skinner down on the ice before putting the puck in the upper right corner for the hat trick. That made it 5-4.
Five minutes into the third the Americans had a golden opportunity to tie the game. After Motte made a save, the defenseman made an outlet pass to Zach Pochiro who was wide open at center ice. Elbrecht hustled back as Pochiro opted to wait for an extra American attacker to enter the zone. That proved to be costly as Elbrecht held him from being able to make a pass and the opportunity was squandered.
Minutes later, the Americans had a 5-on-3 advantage that they could not capitalize on, but they would tie the score just after the second period ended. Shymr fired a shot from the boards that Breton tipped in for his first goal of the year, tying the game at five.
With about 10 seconds left in the game, Joel Chouinard took a delay of game penalty, giving the Thunder a power-play heading to overtime. The Americans would kill off the power-play and then had a chance to win it when the puck was passed to Salituro who was alone at the side of the net, but Skinner came sliding across quickly to block to shot.
Neither team would score, sending the game to overtime. Skinner stopped Shymar on the Americans first opportunity, but Colin Jakobs scored on the Thunder’s first attempt giving the team the lead. Skinner stopped Casey Pierro-Zabotel and then stoned Salituro to give the close out the Wichita Thunder victory.
Dyson Stevenson had 2 goals for the Thunder. Hayden Hodgson had a goal and an assist and Colin Larkin had 2 assists. The Allen Americans were led by Braylon Shymr, who had the hat trick and an assist. Alex Breton had a goal and an assist.
The Wichita Thunder will head to the road for the first time this season, traveling to take on the Allen Americans on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier