Thunder Rally Falls Short on Opening Night
WICHITA, KS – The 2022-23 ECHL season is underway for the Wichita Thunder and, sadly, it did not get off on the right foot on Saturday night as the team fell to the Allen Americans, 5-3. Wichita found themselves trailing by three entering the final period, attempting to rally to tie the score, but the comeback fell short. Stefan Fournier and Brayden Watts each had a goal and an assist for the Thunder. Colton Saucerman had three points to lead Allen.
Allen jumped out on top 4:09 into the contest. Jack Combs passed the puck to Kris Myllari, who lifted a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and past Thunder netminder Evan Buitenhuis to make it 1-0.
A little over 10 minutes later Wichita tied the score. Fournier made a great feed across to Watts, who redirected the puck past Americans goaltender Logan Flodell to tie the score.
The two teams look like they would head to the first intermission, but Saucerman put Allen on top with one second left in the frame. Liam Finlay passed the puck back to Saucerman at the point, who lifted a wrist shot that found the upper corner to make it 2-1.
The second period was dominated by the Americans, who outshot Wichita 10-5, scoring two goals to extend their lead to three. The first came at 13:51 when Justin Young passed the puck to Zach Pochiro in the slot. Pochiro buried a one-timer to make it 3-1. Myllari earned his second point of the night, recording an assist on the play.
With 61 seconds left in the frame, Allen made it a 4-1 game. Saucerman took a shot that deflected off a Thunder player’s stick in front of the net. The puck deflected into the air and over the shoulder of Buitenhuis giving Saucerman his second goal of the night.
The Thunder were being shut down for much of the first 51 minutes of this game, but began to rally at 11:36 when Fournier scored a power-play goal. It was the veterans helping to produce this goal, as Jay Dickman passed the puck to Watts, who fired a shot that Flodell saved, but Fournier knocked in the rebound to make it 4-2.
The Wichita crowd was back in the game, but Colton Hargrove took them back out of it, delivering a power-play goal 65 seconds after the Fournier tally. Hargrove took a shot that Buitenhuis saved, but he retrieved his own rebound, putting it past the Thunder netminder to make it 5-2.
At 16:25, Peter Bates pulled Wichita back within two, scoring his first goal in a Thunder uniform. Barrett Kirwin passed the puck to Bates who fired a wrist shot that beat the Americans netminder.
The Americans clamped down from there, giving Wichita just two shots over the final three minutes. The Thunder finished with 27 shots, but had just 14 over the final two periods. Buitenhuis made 22 saves. Kirwin had two assists.
The Wichita Thunder (0-1-0) take to the ice on Friday when they welcome the Tulsa Oilers. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier