The Wichita Thunder entered Saturday night’s game looking to earn their first three game win streak of the season as they welcomed the Rapid City Rush to town. Thanks to three first period goals eight minutes apart and 24 saves by Dylan Wells the Thunder skated away with a 5-1 victory. Mark MacMillan and Dyson Stevenson each had a goal and an assist and Keoni Texeira had two assists.
At 6:14, the Wichita Thunder would take the lead. Jeremy Beaudry carried the puck into the Rapid City end. He passed it to Stefan Fournier who looked like he wanted to pass the puck as he approached the net but, with the lane taken away, he fired on Adam Carlson who made the save. However, the Rush goaltender lost his balance and the puck continued over his shoulder and into the net for the third goal of the year for Fournier.
Just before the midway point of the first, Tyler Elbrecht would extend the lead to two. Mark MacMillan carried the puck toward the net, then made a great pass across to Elbrecht who fired the puck up high and over the shoulder of Carlson for his second goal of the year.
The Thunder extended the lead to three with 5:36 left in the first. Dyson Stevenson came across the blueline with the puck, setting himself up along the boards. He waited, looking for the play to develop and, when no one was open, fired a wrist shot over the Rush’s goalie on the short side and in to make it 3-0. That was his ninth goal of the year, chasing Carlson from the game.
Tyler Parks entered and played very well for Rapid City. He made a number of great saves, including an impressive kick save when MacMillan swept in with speed and tried to go top shelf, but Parks kicked it away.
However, Wichita would finally break through. At the 2:25 mark of the third, Keoni Texeira’s shot was stopped but MacMillan put the rebound in for his fifth goal of the year. That made it 4-0.
At the midway point of the third, Wichita extended their lead to five. While on the power-play, Dyson Stevenson passed the puck back to Texeira. He made a great feed across the crease to Ralph Cuddemi, who moved in front of the net before firing a wrist shot that beat Parks for his ninth goal of the year. It was the second assist of the night for Texeira.
While the Wichita offense was putting up big numbers, Dylan Wells was fantastic in net. He stopped a breakaway opportunity for Tyler Poulsen in the second period, and made a great save on a Rapid City power-play in the second when he knocked the puck out of the air to keep the Rush off the board.
The Rush would finally get on the board with a little over two minutes left in the game. While on their fourth power-play of the night, Andrew Radjenovic fired a shot that Poulsen tipped in for his fifth goal of the year. That made it 5-1, which would be the final.
These two teams will square off again on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier