Third Period Goals Propel Fort Wayne to Victory over Thunder, 2-1
The Wichita Thunder rolled into Fort Wayne looking to distance themselves from the Komets for the top spot in the Western Conference, and looked like they were doing just that, holding a 1-0 lead entering the third period. However, two goals by the Komets in the final frame gave Fort Wayne a 2-1 victory, pulling them five percentage points away from the top spot in the conference. Dylan Ferguson was the star for Fort Wayne, stopping 20 of 21 shots. Evan Buitenhuis took the loss for Wichita, despite stopping 31 of 33 shots.
The Komets dominated this contest early on, outshooting the Thunder in the first period, 15-4. Wichita was having a very difficult time getting the puck out of their own zone, and had very few scoring chances early on, while Fort Wayne was dominating the contest. It was Buitenhuis who was keeping his team from falling behind.
The line of Spencer Dorowicz, Brayden Watts, and Stephen Johnson had been great for Wichita from the start, and they helped produce the first goal of the game 12:19 into the second. The Komets were trying to clear the puck out of their zone, but Watts was able to hold it in at the blueline, moving it along the boards down to the corner to Johnson. He waited for a moment, looking for Dorowicz to find a soft spot in the high slot before making a perfect pass. Dorowicz blasted the one-timer by Ferguson for his 10th goal of the season, giving Wichita a 1-0 lead.
That held through the second frame, as Fort Wayne had outshot Wichita 25-10 through two periods. However, they found themselves trailing.
In the third, the Thunder stepped up their game, dominating much of this period, but it would be the Komets who would get on the scoreboard, tallying twice in the period.
The first came at 2:25. Ryan Gazzola had the puck at the point and made a nice move to get around a Wichita defender, enabling him to move down the slot. Sean Allen then slid across in front of Gazzola trying to block any shot attempt, but the Fort Wayne defenseman was able to slow himself down, allowing Allen to slide by him before firing a wrist shot that beat Buitenhuis to the glove side to tie the score at one.
The score remained tied until 14:46 when Marc-Olivier Roy gave the Komets their first lead of the game. Olivier Galipeau had the puck at the blueline, dishing it to Shawn Szydlowski just below the left face-off circle. He found Roy in the high slot, who blasted a one-timer by Buitenhuis through a screen to put Fort Wayne on top 2-1.
The Thunder had several opportunities to tie the score, as their forecheck was making it difficult for Fort Wayne to get the puck out of their zone, but Ferguson was the difference. He was able to make several key saves, including one when a mad scramble ensued in front of the Fort Wayne net.
The loss dropped Wichita to 38-18-8, a 0.656 point percentage. Fort Wayne moved to 26-13-4, a 0.651 point percentage.
These teams will go at it again on Saturday. The puck drops at 6:30.
By Robert Pannier