The Wichita Thunder were looking to earn their fourth straight game with a sweep of the Rapid City Rush. Great defense had helped the Thunder win the first two games, and thanks to another outstanding outing by Wichita’s Nick Riopel and Rush’s Christian Frey, this was a tight contest as well, which would eventually go into a shootout. Nick Latta proved to be the only one to score in the three rounds, as Nick Riopel saved 37 shots and all three shootout attempts in the win. Guillaume Lepine added 2 assists, giving him four points over the last two games.
After dropping the first two games of this three game set, the Rapid City Rush were looking to take command early and they did, taking the lead five minutes into the first period. Matt Caito fired a shot on net that Ian Brady redirected in for his third goal of the season to make it 1-0.
The Thunder had dominated the first period, outshooting the Rush 11-4 through the first 17 minutes, but were trailing. Finally, they were able to take advantage of the pressure they were generating. Guillaume Lepine took a shot that Christian Frey saved, but the puck took a long rebound out to Nick Latta who fired a wrist shot past the Rapid City goaltender and into the net for his sixth goal of the year. Jon Puskar earned an assist on the play, his fourth point in the three game series.
The second period saw a lot of great end to end action with limited stoppages. Ironically, it would be an icing call that would give the Rush back the lead. With the faceoff in the Thunder end, the puck was won back Daniel Leavens, who fired a shot on net. Dylan Labbe redirected it with his stick and into the net for his third goal of the year.
Johnny Daniels returned to the Thunder for the first time in over three weeks and that paid dividends right away. At the 3:44 mark of the third, Daniels passed the puck back to Lepine and then headed right for the goal. Lepine gave the puck right back in a beautiful give and go. The Wichita forward continued across the crease, beating Frey to the far side for his fourth goal of the season.
With a little over three minutes left in the third, Leavens came down the left wing boards and fired a shot high to the glove side of Riopel that the Thunder goalie made a great cat-like save on. The final minute of regulation was played exclusively in the Wichita end, with the Rush getting four shots in the final 53 seconds. However, Rapid City could not get a shot passed the Thunder goalie.
To overtime it went where Rapid City had a great chance at the 1:44 mark. Dante Salituro came in on a near breakaway but had trouble controlling the puck and Riopel was able to knock it away. Leavens was following the play and got a shot on goal, but the Wichita goalie came up big again.
With six seconds left, a huge mistake by Wichita left Kenton Miller alone in front of the Thunder net. He moved the puck to his forehand before shooting, but Riopel got the glove hand up to make a great save and force a shootout.
Neither team scored in the first round of the shootout. Kenton Miller was stopped on his chance in the second, but Nick Latta scored between the legs of Frey to give the Thunder the lead. Riopel stoned the final attempt, giving the Thunder the 3-2 win.
Guillaume Lepine had 2 assists for the Wichita Thunder. Nick Riopel was impressive in net for the second straight night, stopping 37 shots. Dylan Labbe had a goal and an assist for Rapid City. Christian Frey made 33 saves.
The Wichita Thunder are off Monday before welcoming the Colorado Eagles to town for two games starting Tuesday. Colorado leads the Mountain Division with Wichita 10 points behind the Eagles. The puck drops at 7:05 on Tuesday.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier