Thunder Outscore Rapid City in 6-4 Victory
WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder saved one of their highest scoring performances of the season for a night when they needed it most, outscoring the Rapid City Rush, 6-4. Six different players scored goals for the Thunder, including Jay Dickman, Brayden Watts, and Matteo Gennaro, who each had a goal and an assist. Evan Buitenhuis started his 14th straight game for Wichita, earning his sixth victory in his last seven starts.
The Thunder jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring a pair of goals before the midway point of the first period. The first came at 4:45 with Wichita on the power-play. Tim Söderlund passed the puck into the corner to Gennaro, who moved along the goal line before beating David Tendeck for his seventh goal of the year.
Almost exactly 5 minutes later, Carter Johnson fired a shot that hit off the crossbar, but the rebound came right to Dickman, who put the puck into the net for his fifth tally of the season. The goal extended the Thunder forward’s point streak to seven straight games.
Rapid City cut the deficit in half when Matt Coatta scored his seventh goal of the year with 6:56 left in the first. With Rapid City on the power-play, Tristan Thompson fired a shot that Buitenhuis saved, but the rebound was put in by Coatta to make it a 2-1 game heading into the first intermission.
The Rush would score the first two goals of the second period, giving them their first lead of the contest. The first came at 4:08 when Logan Nelson tipped a shot from Derek Perl past the Thunder goaltender, tying the score at two. A little over seven minutes later, Alec Butcher gave his team the lead, taking a pass from Nelson and beating Buitenhuis over the shoulder for his fifth goal of the year.
The lead lasted a little less than seven minutes before Dean Stewart tied the score. With the Thunder on the power-play, Gennaro passed the puck to Stewart at the right face-off circle, who blasted a one timer past Tendeck for his third goal of the year, tying the game at three.
Rapid City have dominated this game through the first two periods, outshooting Wichita 30-17. However, the Thunder had withstood the Rush domination, then began to turn the tide in the third period. Wichita outshot Rapid City 14-11 in the final frame, and that helped them to score three goals in the period.
The first came at 5:03 when Peter Crinella scored his seventh goal of the year. Dickman fired a shot on net that Tendeck made a nice save on, but the rebound was loose near the crease. Crinella was able to gain control, putting the loose puck in the net to put Wichita back on top, 4-3.
At 9:30, Logan Fredericks extended the Thunder lead to two. Brady Fleurent passed the puck to Fredericks, who made a nice move before tucking a backhander by Tendeck for his first ECHL goal.
Suddenly trailing by two, Rapid City put the pressure on and were able to pull back within one. Controlling the puck, the Rush quickly moved into the Thunder zone. Butcher passed to Chase Harrison, a move the puck to Stephen Baylis, who was able to beat Buitenhuis with a wrist shot for his eighth goal of the year.
The Rush continued to put the pressure on, looking for the equalizer, but Watts sealed the victory with an empty net tally with 19 seconds left to give Wichita a 6-4 victory. For Watts, it was his fourth goal of the year.
Buitenhuis stopped 37 of 41 shots, earning him his eighth the victory of the year. The Thunder netminder is now 6-0-1 over his last seven games. Söderlund had two assists and 13 players for Wichita recorded a point. Nelson had a goal and to assist for Rapid City. Perl had two assists in Butcher had a goal and an assist.
These two teams square off again on Sunday evening. The puck drops at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier