The Mountain Division leading Idaho Steelheads came to town looking to put some additional distance between themselves and the fourth place Wichita Thunder on Saturday night, but it would be the return of a pair of a players that would help lead Wichita to a 3-2 victory. Lane Bauer and Travis Brown had both been out with injuries, but the pair each netted a goal and Dylan Wells made 34 saves for his eighth straight victory. Eight different Thunder players had at least one point in the game.
It did not take long for Travis Brown to make his presence known. Just 14 seconds into the game he would get on the board. Brown dumped the puck into the right corner in the Idaho Steelheads end. Ralph Cuddemi out skated the Idaho defender to the puck, then fired the puck on net where Tomas Sholl would knock it aside. Brown retrieved the puck along the boards, blasting a shot that beat Sholl to the far side for his ninth goal of the season.
The early goal seemed to awaken the Steelheads who dominated much of the play over the next 16 minutes, but Thunder goalie Dylan Wells made a number of great saves to keep his team on top. However, with four minutes left in the first, Idaho would tie the score.
With the faceoff deep in their own end, the Steelheads would win the draw, heading the other direction with a head of steam. Kyle Schempp would send Mitch Moroz up the boards and into the Thunder end. He passed the puck across the Elgin Pearce, who was cruising down the slot. Pearce beat Wells over his left shoulder with his sixth goal of the year to tie the score at one.
The Steelheads had dominated the first period but, as they had in the first, the Wichita Thunder would retake the lead early in the second frame. At the 1:17 mark, Stefan Fournier would steal the puck behind the Idaho net, passing it in front to Ryan Van Stralen. The Wichita forwared fired the puck right on net and in for his second goal of the season.
At the 3:45 mark, the Steelheads would tie the score. Nolan Gluchowski passed the puck back to Brad McClure who fired a wrist shot. Wells appeared to make the save, but the puck trickled through his legs and into the net for his 17th goal of the year.
At the 7:52 mark, the Thunder would retake the lead. Pierre-Cedric Labrie’s one-timer was saved but Lane Bauer, who also returned to the lineup, batted the puck out of the air and in for his second goal of the season. That made it 3-2.
With nine minutes left Wells made an outstanding save to preserve the lead. With the Steelheads on the power-play, a shot hit off the mask of Wells and right to an Idaho player, who looked like he would tuck the puck into the corner of the net. However, Wells made a great pad save to deny the chance, keeping his team on top by one.
With 1:17 left in the game, Wells absolutely robbed the Steelheads. After making the initial save, the puck went to the other side of the net, where the Idaho player had a wide open net. He put the puck on goal, but Wells was able to change his momentum, diving to the other side of the goal to make an unbelievable blocker save. That would be his 34th save as the team won its third game in a row.
See the Save: https://twitter.com/i/status/1089366532021473282
The victory moved Wichita to 2-0-0 against Idaho this season. These two teams will square off on Sunday with the Wichita Thunder looking to extend their win streak to four. The puck drops at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier