Wichita Thunder’s Comeback Falls Short, Fall in OT
The never say die Wichita Thunder mounted another great comeback Sunday afternoon, coming back from three goals down to force overtime. Eventually the Kansas hockey team fell short in the shootout, but what looked like a sure loss resulted in a point for the Thunder, keeping them one point behind Rapid City for third in the Central Division with three games in hand.
The Brampton Beast came out flying, looking to set the tone and keep the crowd in the game, however, it was Wichita that got on the scoreboard first. Eric Meland fired a shot from the deep slot that Trevor Cann was unable to save. The goal was Meland’s sixth of the year.
Brampton responded with four unanswered goals. Just 89 seconds after Meland’s tally, Jeff Brown netted his first goal of the season to tie the score. The Beast then took the lead 73 seconds later as David Ling beat Tim Boron for his seventh goal of the year. The Thunder netminder was struggling following his return to the club from Rochester, but following the Ling goal he settled down, making a few key saves to keep the game 2-1.
Coming out of the first intermission Brampton looked like they were on a mission. Jason Pitton scored his 21st goal of the year 2:30 into the second period when he took a nice pass from Brown and put it past Boron to make it 3-1. Less than a minute later a defensive mistake led to Justin Donati being left along at the top of the circle. He took a pass from Stephon Thorne and drilled it home for his 1oth of the season. That would draw the early hook for Boron and Grant Rollheiser took over in relief.
The change in goalies brought an immediate spark to the Thunder. Just 56 seconds after the Donati goal, RG Flath took a nice centering pass from Danick Gauthier and drilled it past Ryan DeMelo, who had taken over the Cann at the start of the second period. The tally was Flath’s 11th of the season.
The score remained 4-2 until the 15:35 mark of the second period. Todd Hosmer passed to Dan Milan who took a wrist shot on goal. There was a lot of traffic in front of DeMelo, making it difficult for him to see the puck and, by the time he caught a glimpse of it, the disc was sailing past him and into the goal for Milan’s first goal of the year.
Down 4-3 entering the third period the Thunder looked to make another late comeback. Their previous two contests they had trailed entering the third period, and been down by at least two-goals in each of those games, so the late rally was nothing new to Wichita. DeMelo was up to the challenge though. The Thunder were peppering the Beast goalie, only to see him come up big chance after chance.
At 1518 of the third, Thorne took a two-minute penalty for interference, and it just seemed that this was the time that the tying goal was going to be scored. Brampton was pressuring the Thunder power-play unit well, keeping them from setting up in the Beast end, but with a little over 30 seconds left in the power-play Wichita began to maintain control. Nikita Kashirsky fed a beautiful cross-ice pass to Hosmer at the top of the left circle. He fired a quick wrist shot past DeMelo just after the power-play elapsed tying the score. It was the forward’s 18th goal of the season.
The two teams went into overtime, where each time had a shot on goal but neither team could score. In the shootout, Brampton’s David Ling scored on the team’s first opportunity, putting the Beast up 1-0. Wichita was stoned by DeMelo through the first two rounds, but Ian Lowe tied it up with a nice move to make it 1-1. In round 4, Bobby Hughes put the home team ahead again, 2-1. Danick Gauthier had the Thunder’s last chance to continue the shootout going but he was stopped, giving the Brampton Beast the win.
Kashirsky added two assists in the loss, moving his point scoring streak to eight straight games. Flath’s goal have him 84 for his Wichita Thunder career, putting him one behind Jim McGeough for eighth place on the team’s all-time list. Rollheiser took the loss, despite stopping all 17 shots he faced in regulation.
The two teams face off again Monday night. The Wichita Thunder (27-21-2-6) are currently ninth in the Western Conference playoff picture. With the Rapid City Rush having the night off this is a great opportunity for them to jump ahead into the No. 8 position.
By Robert Pannier