Buitenhuis Brilliant as Thunder Down Allen, 2-1
ALLEN, TX – Evan Buitenhuis stopped 21 shots as the Wichita Thunder defeated the Allen Americans on Sunday afternoon, 2-1. Brayden Watts scored the game-winning goal. The victory moved the Thunder to 4-5-0, a point ahead of Rapid City in the Mountain Division standings.
Wichita came away with the only goal of the first period. Nick Minerva passed the puck into the corner to Carter Johnson, who made a nice move coming across the goal line before beating Allen goaltender Hayden Lavigne with a shot just past the blocker to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead.
The one goal lead held into the second period, where the Americans would tie the score with just 18 seconds left in the period. It was a tentative frame that saw Allen take 10 shots on Buitenhuis while Wichita took eight on Lavigne. However, the last shot of the period proved to be crucial as Eric Roy made a great pass through the neutral zone to Chad Costello, sending him in on a breakaway. He moved in on Buitenhuis before firing a wrist shot that beat the Thunder goaltender for his fifth goal of the year.
Wichita came out of the second break determined to retake the lead, outshooting the Americans 18-5 in the frame. That helped the Thunder retake the lead just 23 seconds into the period. With Wichita on a power-play, Jay Dickman passed the puck to Watts, who fired a wrist shot that beat Lavigne to the glove side for his third goal of the year.
Despite being unable to add to their lead, Wichita dominated the period. It is only through a number of great saves by Lavigne that Allen was able to stay Alive. The Americans had one last chance to try to tie the score when Minerva took a penalty with 80 seconds left in the game, but Wichita was able to kill off the remaining time to earn their fourth victory of the season.
Buitenhuis moved to 4-5-0 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.47. Johnson now has goals in back-to-back games and has scored four points over the last two contests.
The Thunder are off until Friday when they travel to Tulsa to take on the Oilers. The puck drops at 7:00.
By Robert Pannier