Pouliot Tally Propels Thunder, Spoils Iowa Comeback
Wichita, KS – Three times the Iowa Heartlanders rallied from one goal deficits to knot their game against the Wichita Thunder, but Xavier Pouliot delivered the death blow, scoring his first goal of the season to lead Wichita to a 4-3 victory. Peter Bates, Michal Stinil, and Brayden Watts each had a goal and an assist and Trevor Gorsuch made 30 saves in the win.
Wichita never trailed this contest. After a scoreless first period, Stinil scored 38 seconds into the second period to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead. Ryan Finnegan lifted a wrist shot that Heartlanders netminder Hunter Jones saved, but the rebound came to Stinil, who blasted home for his second goal of the year.
Iowa responded a little less than three minutes later when Jesse Jacques scored his third goal of the season. Jacques made a nice move around the Wichita defenseman, then beat Gorsuch to the far post.
The score remained tied for just five seconds before Watts restored the one goal, Wichita advantage. In a designed to play, Aaron Miller won the draw, then fired a pass to Watts as he broke toward the Iowa end. The team captain burst in on Jones, beating him with a shot to the corner for his first tally of the year.
Just 55 seconds later, the Heartlanders were able to tie the score again. With Iowa on the power-play, Maxim Cajkovic received a pass from Odeen Tufto. He then lifted a wrist shot that beat the Wichita goaltender for his first goal of the season.
With 4:40 left in the second period, Bates put his team on top, netting his second goal of the year. Stinil passed the puck to Bates in the neutral zone, sending him in on a breakaway. Jones made the initial save, but Bates put in the rebound attempt to make it 3-2 heading into the second intermission.
Iowa was down once again, but Cajkovic scored his second goal of the night 7:50 into the third to knot the game at three. With the draw inside the Wichita zone, Yuki Miura moved the puck to Nick Campoli, who quickly passed it to Cajkovic. He fired a wrist shot that beat Gorsuch.
At 13:31, Wichita took the lead for good. Watts fired a shot that deflected off Bradley Marek and right to Pouliot. He took the loose puck, firing a shot through a screen that beat Jones for his first career goal.
Iowa put up 18 shots in the final frame and 33 shots overall, but could not get the equalizer. The victory was the second in a row for the Wichita Thunder (2-3-0). The Thunder will finish off their two-game set against the Heartlanders (0-2-1) on Sunday. The puck drops at 4:00.
By Robert Pannier