Merchant, Power-Play Propel Steelheads Past Thunder, 7-4
BOISE, ID – Will Merchant netted a hat trick and the Idaho Steelheads scored two power-play goals as they downed the Wichita Thunder, 7-4. Michael Prapavessis added three assists and Ryan Dmowski had a goal and three assists for Idaho. Alex Peters had two assists for Wichita, who dropped their fifth straight game and are dangerously close to being eliminated.
The Thunder jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring twice in the first minute of this contest. Matteo Gennaro got the scoring started, netting his second goal since returning from Bakersfield 55 seconds into the contest. The Thunder won the draw in the Steelheads end. Alex Peters gained control, moving in on net before finding Gennaro in the slot, who blasted a one-timer by Jake Kupsky for his ninth goal of the season.
Just 1:03 later, Peter Crinella extended the lead to two. Jay Dickman found Crinella who lifted a laser wrist shot over the shoulder of Kupsky for his 24th goal of the year.
The Thunder had taken control of this game, but Idaho responded with three unanswered goals to enter the first intermission up by a goal. The first came at 3:42 when A.J. White scored his 23rd goal of the season. Prapavessis took a shot from the point that Jake Theut saved, but the rebound came right to White who was alone in front of the net. He tucked the forehand on the short side to make it 2-1.
Just before the 10-minute mark, Idaho tied the score. Jordan Timmons had the puck in the corner. He found Colton Kehler moved off the boards. Kehler swept across the slot, lifting a backhander over the shoulder of Theut for his 12th goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, Merchant scored the first of his three goals. White blasted a puck from the redline that took an Idaho bounce off the boards and right out in front to Merchant, who slammed home a slapshot to give the Steelheads a 3-2 lead.
The Thunder tied the score 7:33 into the second period. Crinella made a perfect pass onto the stick of Michal Stinil who moved in before putting a wrist shot by Kupsky. That was the 12th goal of the season for Stinil.
Just before the nine-minute mark, Merchant delivered his second goal of the game, starting another run of three straight tallies by the Steelheads. It was a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that set up the goal. With Idaho on the power-play, Kehler passed the puck to White near the goal line in the corner, who made a one-touch pass to Merchant in the slot. He simply redirected the puck past Theut to make it 4-3.
With 2:09 left in the second period, Kehler gave his team a two-goal lead. Timmons had the puck behind the net, passing it to Kehler at the corner, who put a one-timer past Theut to make it 5-3.
The Steelheads extended their lead to three, scoring their second power-play goal of the game at 14:41. Dmowski took a shot from the point that Theut saved, but Merchant put the rebound in to complete the hat trick.
Garrett Schmitz cut the deficit back to two, scoring almost exactly one minute later. This time the Thunder would score on the power-play as Peters passed the puck to Schmitz, who buried a one-timer for his seventh goal of the season.
With 1:30 left in the game, Dmoski sealed the win with an empty-net tally. That made it 7-4, which would be the final.
Kupsky finished with 23 saves. White had a goal and two assists and Kehler had two goals and an assist. Timmons had two assists. Gennaro and Crinella each had a goal and an assist for the Thunder. Peters has points in four straight games (3 G, 4 A).
These teams will faceoff again on Friday. The puck drops at 8:10 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier