Weninger Leads Thunder to First Home Victory, 2-1
It took four tries, but the Wichita Thunder finally earned their first victory of the season at INTRUST Bank Arena. That came courtesy of Evan Weninger who was absolutely brilliant, stopping 21 shots, including several in the final minutes to lead the Thunder to a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Mavericks. That moved Wichita to 1-2-1 at home this season.
The Thunder were looking to get out to a fast start to break their winless drought at home and Gordie Green made that happen at 4:38 thanks to a nice play by Spencer Dorowicz. Dorowicz went after a loose puck in the neutral zone, beating the Mavericks defender to the puck near center ice. However, instead of trying to corral and taking the risk that it would be knocked off his stick, he simply tipped it ahead, then raced to gain control just outside the blueline. Dorowicz carried it in, then made a great pass to Green cruising down the slot. Green fired a wrist shot that Sean Bonar saved, but the Kansas City netminder could not keep control and it slipped through him and into the net. For Green, it was his fourth goal of the year.
The Mavericks created a 5-on-3 power-play and took full advantage. It was a head’s up play on the part of Kansas City that created the two-man advantage. The Thunder were already going to lose a player on a slashing call, but the Mavericks continued to move the puck around on the delayed penalty until they were able to draw an interference call. That set up the two-man advantage and they capitalized right away
Just 17 seconds into the power-play, the Mavericks were quickly moving the puck around. The pass came to Phil Mainaccio near the goal line, who dished it right back to Brodie Reid just inside the faceoff circle. He fired a wrist shot that beat Weninger for his second goal of the year.
After outshooting Kansas City 13-6 in the first period, the Thunder could do no better than a 1-1 tie. However, they retook the lead 4:29 into the second. Anthony Beauregard carried the puck down the boards, directing it on net where Stefan Fournier tipped it in for his second goal of the year.
Clinging to the 2-1 lead, both netminders came up with great saves to keep this a one-goal game. Weninger stopped a shot point blank, which sent the Thunder back the other way on a 3-on-none with Bonar as the only line of defense. He kept his composure, making a great save to deny the opportunity.
For your intermission viewing, here are two big back-to-back saves from Weninger & Bonar from period two! pic.twitter.com/B8wLek32n2
— Wichita Thunder (@Wichita_Thunder) January 10, 2021
The Mavericks had another 5-on-3 advantage in the third period, but they were not getting anything past Weninger. In the final two minutes, Kansas City pulled Bonar looking for the equalizer. They recorded four shots on the Wichita goalie, including three in a mad scramble in front of the net, but Weninger stood strong to earn the victory. He stopped 21 of 22 shots overall.
The final contest of this three-game set is Sunday at 4:05.
By Robert Pannier