The Wichita Thunder end the second weekend of the 2017-18 ECHL Season with 8 points after sweeping the Rapid City Rush on Saturday and Sunday. That puts the team tied for the Mountain Division lead with the Colorado Eagles, and the two rivals are tied with the Florida Everblades for the best record in the league. The Thunder have shown a great deal of offensive firepower so far this season, scoring 16 goals while only allowing 9.
The Thunder have scored first in all four games this season, and have yet to trail in any contest. They struggled early on the power-play, going 0-12 through the first three contests, but snapped that streak on Sunday when Kyle Platzer and Jeremy Beaudry each scored a goal with the man advantage. Goalies Joel Rumpel and Shane Starrett have each won two games.
This Past Week:
Saturday, October 21 – Wichita 3, Rapid City 1
Kyle Platzer got the scoring going with his second goal of the year at the 10:33 mark. Zach O’Brien added two goals in the game, including one 44 seconds after Platzer lit the lamp. Joel Rumpel made 24 saves in the contest to move to 2-0-0 on the year. Full Recap
Sunday, October 22 – Wichita 5, Rapid City 2
The Wichita Thunder scored five goals in the first 11:25 of the contest, then watched Rapid City take command of the game. Shane Starrett had to make a series of outstanding saves, including one on a penalty shot, and finished by stopping 27 of the 29 shots he faced. Keith Platzer continued his fast start, scoring two goals including a short-handed goal, the first scored by Wichita this season. Full Recap
Player of the Week – Keith Platzer
Platzer had a huge week for the Thunder. In two games he scored 3 goals and added 2 assists. With 8 points through the first four games of the season, the Wichita forward is tied for second in the ECHL in scoring, and is tied for third in goals scored. He is also +6, including going +1 in each of the two contests against Rapid City.
Period 1: Speed Kills
In the offseason, Head Coach Malcolm Cameron made adding size and speed two of his biggest priorities, and that has paid off in a big way this year. The line of Kyle Platzer-Matt DeBlouw-Zach O’Brien has been absolutely unstoppable this season, as the three have combined for 8 goals and 10 assists. Travis Ewanyk and Mark MacMillan have also shown a great deal of speed, and have each added a key goal that aided a victory, including MacMillan’s overtime winner against Indy in the second game of the year.
The speed is not just in the forward position, however. The defense has been solid, and they have looked incredibly impressive when there has been a mistake. In the opening season victory, Travis Brown chased down a 2-0 breakaway in the first period, ruining a chance for the Fuel and, later, chased down an Indy player on a breakaway, poking the puck away before he could get off a shot. This team is fast and has great size, big keys to the 4-0-0 start.
Period 2: An Improving Penalty Kill
While the Thunder rank last in the Mountain Division killing off penalties (76.5 percent), they have improved greatly since the opening night victory. The team gave up two power-play goals in the victory over Indy, but have allowed just two goals in the last 14 chances. (85.7 percent).
In the victory over Rapid City on Sunday, the Thunder killed off four of five penalties, including a double-minor. During that four-minute span, Wichita allowed just one shot on net.
Period 3: Stellar Play in Net
While it is still early, Coach Cameron has to be pleased with the play of his two goaltenders, who he has alternated through the first four contests of the year. Joel Rumpel has stopped 63 of 67 shots, a .937 save percentage, and is eighth in the ECHL with a 2.00 goals against average. Shane Starrett has been nearly as brilliant, stopping 63 of 68 shots (.921) and he is 14th in the league in GAA at 2.41.
Each have made fantastic saves this season, going beyond the routine that is expected by Coach Cameron. Only one of the goals allowed can be considered “soft.” Starrett stopped a penalty shot opportunity for the Rush on Sunday and, on opening night, Rumpel made a glove save that was unreal to take away a goal. Each of these netminders would be a No. 1 on most other teams in the league.
Coach Cameron Quote of the Week:
“You got to score right away and let them know. So, we made them pay. Part of that is I don’t know whether he is just trying to get out of the game. I don’t know, I just know Travis is a big boy and can take care of himself. He certainly earned his stripes in the American Hockey League and can go toe-to-toe with anybody. There’s a time to do it and there’s a time not to do it, and there wasn’t a point in doing it at that time. We just scored, so why get into a fight? We wind up getting a power-play and score. That’s a team guy right there.”
Coach Cameron shares his thoughts on the play following the goal by Travis Ewanyk that put Wichita up 3-0 on Sunday. After the goal, Rapid City’s Michael Sdao attacked Ewanyk, delivering a cheap shot, and was ejected from the game.
Coming This Week:
The Wichita Thunder head to the road for the first time this season, taking on the Tulsa Oilers on Wednesday before traveling to Kansas City to take on the Mavericks on Saturday. Tulsa is currently 1-2-1 after four games (3 points), ranked sixth in the Mountain Division. Kansas City is 2-1-0 (4 points) and is tied for second in the Central Division. Both games are scheduled for 7:05.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier