Hargrove Goal Gives Americans Late Victory over Thunder
WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder twice battled back from deficits to tie the Allen Americans on Friday, but the third proved to be a bridge to far, as Colton Hargrove scored with 1:26 left to give Allen a 4-3 victory. Michal Stinil had two assists for Wichita. Colton Saucerman and Hargrove each had three points.
The Americans dominated this contest early pressuring the Thunder with a relentless forecheck that led to two goals within the first eight minutes. The first came at 5:05 with the teams playing four-on-four. Hargrove stole the puck behind the net, then passed it in front to Hank Crone who was crashing the net. He put it in past Strauss Mann for his 17th goal of the year.
At 7:26, the lead became two. Saucerman fired a shot from the point that Hargrove tipped past Mann for his 12th goal of the season. That made it 2-0.
The Thunder were being boxed into their own end, outshot 9-1 through the first 7:40, but Chris McKay woke the team up at 7:55. Allen was trying to create a breakaway chance in the neutral zone, lifting the puck high looking to spring a forward, but McKay reached up and knocked the puck down with his hand just outside his own blueline. He corralled the puck on his stick and then entered the Allen end, blasting a slapshot that beat Chase Perry over the glove for his second save of the season.
At the 16-minute mark, it was Jay Dickman relentlessly forechecking behind the net that led to another goal. He and Jake Wahlin were keeping the puck deep in the Americans end. Dickman gained control, going for the wraparound where he knocked the puck off the pad of Perry and in for his 11th goal of the year.
The score was tied despite the fact that Allen outshot Wichita, 13-6. They continued to pressure early in the second, retaking the lead just 20 seconds into the frame. A power-play carried over from the previous period, and the Americans delivered quickly, winning the opening faceoff, and then going on the attack. Jack Combs fed Crone with a pass that he tipped past Mann for his second goal of the game.
The Thunder were down again, but tied the score just after the nine minute mark. Brayden Watts entered the Allen zone, crossing the blueline, before turning around to give the puck to Quinn Preston. Preston moved around the Allen defenseman, taking a shot that Perry saved, but Preston stayed with the play, lifting the puck over the shoulder of Perry and just under the crossbar for his 13th of the year. Stinil earned his second assist of the game on the play.
This game had overtime written all over it, but Hargrove scored his second goal of the contest with 1:26 left. Zach Pochiro fed the puck toward the corner where Hargrove lifted a bad angle shot that somehow found its way past Mann and in to make it 4-3.
The Thunder pulled Mann right away looking for the equalizer, and had a chance to tie it when the puck bounced across the crease with about 30 seconds left, but it went by harmlessly, as Allen held on for the one-goal victory.
The Wichita Thunder (20-12-3) will host the Allen Americans (13-19-1) again on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier