Watts Completes Comeback Victory with Skate-Off Goal
Brayden Watts scored just 53 seconds into overtime to give the Wichita Thunder a skate-off victory over the Rapid City Rush on Saturday night, 3-2. Evan Buitenhuis had another outstanding start for Wichita, stopping 36 of 38 shots to earn his fourth straight victory with the team. The victory coupled with a Fort Wayne Komets loss moved Wichita (27-12-5) within four percentage points of the top spot in the Western Conference standings.
Wichita jumped out in front 7:39 into the contest. Cam Clarke passed the puck back to the point to Beau Starrett, who fired a wrist shot that eluded Rapid City goaltender Adam Carlson to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead. For Starrett it was his ninth goal of the season.
Rapid City had controlled play through much of the first two periods, outshooting Wichita 28-18. However, it was to spectacular play of Buitenhuis that kept the Thunder on top. The biggest of those saves came at 14:54. Peter Quenneville took a great outlet pass at center ice, moving down along the boards and into the Thunder zone. As he reached the end line, he made a great pass back to Avery Peterson in the slot. Peterson had slipped between two Wichita defenders and had a clear path to the goal. He fired a one-timer toward the far corner of the net, but Buitenhuis was able to quickly move back to his left, getting into position to stop the attempt to keep his team on top by a goal.
Buitenhuis held Rapid City off the scoreboard for 49 minutes, but in the span of 100 seconds they would take the lead. At 9:16 and with the Rush on the power-play, Tyler Coulter fired a shot from just inside the right face-off circle that Buitenhuis saved, but the rebound came right to Peterson who knocked it in for his 18th goal of the year.
Just before the 11-minute mark, Rapid City took the lead. Kevin Spinozzi had the puck near the right side of the net, taking a shot that Buitenhuis blocked away with a nice pad save, but the rebound deflected to the opposite side of the net where Quenneville knocked it into the near empty net for his 14th goal of the year.
The Thunder suddenly found themselves trailing, but Stephen Johnson tied the score with a little less than five minutes left in the game. Spencer Dorowicz gained control of the puck behind the Rapid City net. He passed it to Watts who was just above the end line near the right-side boards. He quickly passed it into the slot to Johnson who fired a one-timer by Carlson for his second goal of the year.
Tied at two, the game headed to overtime. Anthony Beauregard nearly won the contest about 30 seconds into the extra session when he went in on a breakaway, but Carlson made a fantastic move to stop the attempt. However, Beauregard would set up the winning goal seconds later. He moved into the Rush zone on a 2-on-1 break, waiting until he was about 10 feet away from the Rapid City goal before firing a perfect pass across the slot to Watts who drilled home his fifth goal of the year to give Wichita the 3-2 victory.
Watts finish the evening with a goal and an assist. Coulter had two assists for the Rush.
Wichita now returns home next Friday where they will take on the Utah Grizzlies (19-14-10) for three games over the weekend. Friday night’s contest begins at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier