Crinella, Weninger Corral Mavericks, 5-2
It was a long bus ride home from South Dakota after being swept by the Rapid City Rush and it would have been understandable if the Wichita Thunder were a little fatigued after a 12-hour bus ride through blizzard conditions. However, the Thunder dominated their contest with the Kansas City Mavericks, playing their most complete game in a month in a 5-2 victory. Peter Crinella scored two goals and Evan Weninger stopped 35 shots to help corral the Mavericks.
Four minutes into the contest, the Kansas City Mavericks looked to take the lead. Bryan Lemos stole the puck at the redline, then headed in on Weninger on a breakaway. He fired a wrist shot up high that the Thunder goalie made a nice glove save on to keep it scoreless.
At the 7:34 mark the Thunder jumped on top. Billy Exell outraced a defender to the corner in the Mavericks end, passing the puck behind him to Crinella. Crinella quickly took the puck behind the net, then made a great wraparound shot, catching the far corner for his eighth goal of the year.
Right near the halfway mark of the first, Kansas City was on the power-play. Justin Woods fired a shot from the point that Weninger saved, but the rebound bounced to the side of the Thunder netminder. Rocco Carzo was alone near the goal and simply tucked the puck into the net for his 13th goal of the year.
The Thunder retook the lead 46 seconds into the second. Tyler Parson tried to clear the puck out of his end, but Vincent Desharnais was able to keep the puck in the Mavericks end. He fired a shot that was wide of the net, but hit off the boards and right to Chris Crane, who was alone at the side of the net. He put the puck in the nearly open net for the 11th goal of the year to give Wichita a 2-1 lead.
The Wichita Thunder came out of the second break with a power-play and took advantage nine seconds into the frame. The puck was dumped into the Mavericks end. Crinella took the puck away from a defender along the boards, then moved in on net, firing a wrist shot that beat Parsons over the shoulder on the short side for his second goal of the game.
The power-play unit had produced a goal, so it was time for the penalty killing squad to add to the lead. At the 3:09 mark, Riley Weselowski made a great pass out of the Wichita end to Fabrizio Ricci in the neutral zone. Ricci had a step on the Kansas City defender, who pulled the Thunder forward down as he approached the net. However, Ricci was still able to still take a shot that went through the five-hole of Parsons. The Mavericks goaltender got a piece of the puck, but it bounced off both leg pads before trickling across the goal line to make it 4-1 Thunder. The highlight goal was Ricci’s seventh of the year.
Just before the halfway point it became a 5-1 game. Crane took a shot on net that was knocked down and to the side of the goal. That is where Jason Salvaggio quickly swooped in, firing the wrist shot over the shoulder of Parsons for his sixth tally of the year.
The Mavericks would cut the deficit to three on Jack Walker’s fifth goal of the year with 1:47 left, but Kansas City would get no closer.
Despite giving up the late goal, Weninger was absolutely brilliant. He stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced, including 14 in the final period. Crane and Ricci each finished with a goal and an assist and Desharnais had two assists.
The Thunder travel up I-35 on Tuesday for a New Year’s Eve contest with the Mavericks. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier
Featured image courtesy of the Wichita Thunder