Buitenhuis Stars, Special Teams Stellar as Thunder Blank Mavericks, 4-0
The Wichita Thunder continued their domination of the Kansas City Mavericks at Cable Dahmer Arena this season, moving to 9-0-1 with a 4-0 victory on Saturday evening. Evan Buitenhuis continued his stellar performance since joining the Thunder, stopping all 30 shots he faced for his third shutout in a Wichita uniform. The special teams were also spectacular for Wichita, as the penalty killing units killed off a season-high nine power-play opportunities for Kansas City while the Thunder went 2-6 with the man advantage.
The Mavericks had the better of play to the first two periods, outshooting Wichita 25-10. However, it would be the Thunder who would take a 1-0 lead 6:20 into the contest. Jay Dickman had the puck along the end boards inside the Kansas City zone. He was knocked down, but the puck came right onto the stick of Anthony Beauregard who passed it out in front to Garrett Schmitz who was standing alone in front of the Mavericks net. He blasted a one-timer by Andrew Shortridge for his sixth the goal of the year.
The Thunder clung to that one goal lead through the first two periods, but dominated the third to blow open this contest. The Thunder outshot the Mavericks 16-5, extending their lead to two at the 3:24 mark with a power-play goal. Matteo Gennaro passed the puck to Dickman near the side of the net. His shot hit off the top crossbar then off the post before bouncing to the other side of the net. That is where Stefan Fournier was standing all alone, tucking the puck inside the left post for his 20th tally of the year. For Fournier, it was his third goal in his second game since returning from an injury.
Wichita extended the lead to three at 18:11 of the third period. Peter Crinella was trying to clear the puck out of the Wichita zone and was absolutely leveled on a hit by a Mavericks defenseman. However, he was able to kick the puck ahead to Beau Starrett in the neutral zone. With Shortridge out, Starrett was easily able to tuck the puck into the empty net for his 12th goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, the Thunder increased their lead to 4-0 with their second power-play tally of the game. Brayden Watts passed the puck back to the point to Cam Clarke who blasted a shot by Shortridge for his third goal of the season.
The four goals were plenty enough for Buitenhuis, who was absolutely brilliant. The Thunder netminder made several great saves, especially near the end of the second period, when the Mavericks were on a 5-on-3 power play. In the final minute of the second frame, Kansas City had three golden scoring opportunities, but Buitenhuis shut them down each time.
Besides the performance of Buitenhuis, the play of the penalty killing units was a huge story in this game. Nine times the Mavericks had a power-play, including two 5-on-3 advantages, but came away with nothing. The Thunder penalty killers did a great job of denying Kansas City the opportunity to set up inside the Wichita zone.
Dickman finished with two assists. Beauregard had an assist, extending his point streak to nine straight games. Dean Stewart saw his 11-game point streak come to an end.
With the victory, Wichita moved to 36-16-8 on the season. They are now 17 percentage points behind Fort Wayne for first place in the Western Conference and increased their lead over the Allen Americans to 20 percentage points for second place in the conference.
Kansas City and Wichita will square off again on Tuesday, this time at INTRUST Bank Arena. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier