Defiel, Defense Stiffle Thunder in 3-2 Rush Victory
The Rapid City Rush held the Wichita Thunder to just 26 shots on Saturday night, and goaltender Gordon Defiel stopped 24 of them as the Rush defeated Wichita, 3-2. Three unanswered goals by Rapid City helped propel the team into the lead and Defiel made it stand, stopping 19 shots over the final two periods. The loss was the second in a row for Wichita, dropping the Thunder to 16-6-3.
For the second straight night, the Thunder got on the scoreboard first. At 10:22, Jay Dickman carried the puck into the Rapid City end, dishing it ahead to a speeding Dean Stewart. Stewart made a nice one touch backhand pass to Stefan Fournier racing down the slot, who buried the puck in the back of the net for his team leading 11th goal of the year.
It took just 80 seconds for the Rush to respond. Hunter Garlent had the puck just inside the right faceoff circle. With his back to the Wichita net, he made a nice turnaround spin move, firing a wrist shot that beat Wichita netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos to the far post for his fifth tally of the year.
Despite outshooting Wichita 16-6 in the first, the best Rapid City could do was come away with a tie, but they dominated the second, taking a 3-1 lead. At 1:42 and the Rush on a power play, Tyler Coulter fired a wrist shot from just above the left faceoff circle that Avery Peterson tipped past Sakellaropoulos for his 12th goal of the season, putting Rapid City on top 2-1.
Four minutes later, Coulter extended the lead to two. Michael Tam carried the puck into the Thunder end on a 3-on-1 break. He dished it across to Garlent who fired a shot on net. Coulter was racing down the slot and was able to tip the attempt by Sakellaropoulos with a perfect redirect to tie Peterson for the team lead in goals with 12.
Wichita had their opportunities in the second period, but Defiel came up with a number of big saves. That included at 18:47 when Beau Starrett had a point-blank attempt on the Rush netminder, but Defiel was able to knock down the puck. The rebound came right back to Starrett, but his second attempt found the same fate, gloved by Defiel to draw the whistle.
In the third, the Thunder would finally get back on the board, at 13:23, Dickman had control of the puck behind the net. He dished it in front to Peter Crinella who put the one-timer by the Rush goalie for his sixth tally of the year.
The Thunder pulled Sakellaropoulos with a minute left looking for the equalizer and had what looked like the tying goal but Defiel made an absolutely unbelievable save to preserve the one goal lead. Crinella had the puck just above the left faceoff circle. He made a picture perfect pass across the slot to the back door where Starrett was all alone, but Defiel made a diving glove save, coming from out of nowhere to deny the chance.
The Thunder had a couple of other chances in the final minute, but could not get another past Defiel. He stopped 24 of 26 shots. Coulter had a goal and an assist for Rapid City. Sakellaropoulos was the tough luck loser, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Dickman had two assists for Wichita.
These two teams will go at it again on Sunday. The puck drops at 4:05.