Brooks, Kelly Lead Rush Over Thunder, 3-2
WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder twice rallied from one-goal deficits on Friday evening, but Calder Brooks scored the game-winner with 3:20 left in the contest to give the Rapid City Rush a 3-2 victory. Brett Gravelle scored a goal and added an assist and Dillon Kelly made 30 saves. Jake Theut was solid in net for Wichita, stopping 33 of 36 shots.
For the second straight night, the Rush took the lead first, scoring 9:11 into the contest and it was Gravelle who gave his team the lead. A night after scoring the first two goals of the game for Rapid City, the Rush forward carried the puck out of his end through the neutral zone moving in on Theut on a partial breakaway. For a moment he lost complete control of the puck, choosing to poke at it. This seemed to fool the Wichita goaltender, who was expecting a wrist shot. The puck slid through the legs of Theut and in to make it 1-0.
The Thunder responded a little over six minutes later. With a delayed penalty called against Rapid City, Jay Dickman gained control of the puck inside the right faceoff circle. He made a great pass through the slot to the opposite faceoff circle where Dalton Skelly blasted a one-timer by Kelly for his second goal of the year.
The contest looked like would be tied heading to the first intermission, but Gabriel Chabot put his team back on top with 61 seconds left in the frame. Jake Wahlin had the puck along the half boards, looking for a centering feed. He directed the puck into the slot, hitting off the skate of Chabot and in to make it 2-1 Rapid City.
The Thunder were down again, but tied the score 5:34 into the second period on a short-handed goal by Logan Fredericks. After Theut made a pad save, Cam Clarke pushed the puck up the ice to Brayden Watts, sending his team the other way on a 3-on-2 break. After crossing the blueline, Watts found Fredericks, who lifted a wrist shot over the glove of Kelly for his sixth goal of the year.
The Rush dominated the third period, having six or seven great scoring chances that Theut denied each time. That included three point blank chances in a row near the mid-point of the period.
However, Rapid City would not be denied, retaking the lead at 16:40. Derek Perl made a perfect centering feed to Brooks, who redirected the puck past Theut for the game-winner.
The Thunder pulled Theut with a minute left in the game, but could not get the equalizer. Kelly finished with 30 saves to earn the victory. Neither team could capitalize on the power-play, going a combined 0-9.
These two teams finish off their three-game set on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier