Fournier Propels Thunder Past Allen into First Place, 5-2
Stefan Fournier got things started and put an explanation point on it for the Wichita Thunder on Saturday night, scoring two goals and adding two assists to lead the Thunder to a 5-2 victory over the Allen Americans. Fournier scored the first and last goals of the game and Hayden Lavigne made 37 stops to give Wichita their seventh win in their last nine games. Wichita now ha four fewer points than Allen but, because of winning percentage, they now moved into first place in the Western Conference.
The Thunder got on the board just after the 10-minute mark, taking advantage of a power play. Noel Hoefenmeyer fired a shot that Allen goaltender Justin Kapeimaster saved, knocking it to the opposite faceoff circle. Anthony Beauregard, who had three assists on Friday, sped over and quickly fed the puck to Stefan Fournier at the far post. Fournier simply redirected the puck into the net for his eighth goal of the year.
At 14:41, the Americans tied the score. Phillip Beaulieu battled for the puck behind the Wichita net and was able to gain control. He sped out in front of the net, then beat Lavigne with the wraparound for his second goal of the year.
The score was tied entering the second period, but Allen took the lead 1:29 into the period. The Americans were buzzing around the net producing three shots that Lavigne had to make big saves on to keep the game tied. However, Corey Mackin was able to gain control of the puck moving away from the net and toward the faceoff circle, which drew the Thunder defenseman toward him. Mackin noticed the opening, quickly dishing a backhand pass to Jesse Mychan, who slid the puck under Lavigne for his 10th goal of the year.
At the 14-minute mark, Lavigne made a pair of saves that brought the crowd to their feet. Kameron Kelly anticipated a pass across the blue line, intercepting it and leading a 2-on-1 the other way. He entered the Thunder zone, firing a slap shot that the Wichita netminder made a great save on, but the rebound bounced right out in front. Brayton Shmyr quickly sped in and corralled the puck, looking to backhand it into the corner, but Lavigne was able to scoot himself across the ice and make a toe save to deny the chance.
It looked like Allen would take a one-goal lead into the second intermission, but John Albert tied the score with an improbable goal. With 28 seconds left in the period, he approached the net trying to jam the puck past Kapelmaster. The Americans goalie made the initial save, but the puck was loose. Albert’s momentum carried him behind the net, but he was somehow able to reach from behind the net, tucking the puck under Kapelmaster to make it 2-2 heading to the second break.
The Thunder looked to build off the momentum from the late tally and that is what they did, scoring a goal exactly one minute into the third. Beauregard carried the puck into the Americans zone, firing a shot that Kapelmaster saved, but the rebound came right to Fournier who put it back on net. Kapelmaster made another big save, but this time the puck came to Jay Dickman. He looked like he had an empty net, but the Americans netminder dove to make the save. Dickman did not give up, putting in his own rebound to give Wichita a 3-2 lead. It was the fifth goal of the season for Dickman.
With a little over four minutes left in the game, the Thunder extended their lead to two. Just after a Wichita power play ended, the Thunder used their forecheck to create a turnover. Beau Starrett zoomed in on net, taking the shot that Kapelmaster saved, but Beauregard tucked in the rebound for his third goal of the year to make it 4-2.
With 2:06 left in the game, the Thunder extended their lead to three. Allen had pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. Dickman gained control of the puck, flipping it up the boards. Fournier outraced an Allen defender for the puck, then flipped the backhander into the empty goal for his second tally of the game.
Fournier finished with two goals and two assists giving him 14 points, second on the team. Beauregard finished with a goal and two assists, giving him 13 assists and 16 points. Both lead the club. Lavigne evened his record at 2-2-0.
Wichita heads on the road for the next five starting on Friday, February 12 with a trip to Utah to face the Grizzlies.
By Robert Pannier