Thunder Rally Comes Up Short, Fall to Rush, 4-3
The Wichita Thunder found themselves trailing 4-0 after 27 minutes in Friday night’s contest with the Rapid City Rush, but showed a lot of heart, battling back to pull within one before falling, 4-3. Patrik Parkkonen had two assists for Wichita. The Rush were led by Tyler Coulter who had two goals. The victory moved Rapid City two points ahead of Wichita for fourth place in the Mountain Division.
The Rush looked like they would take the lead less than a minute into the contest, but Mitch Gillam made three absolutely brilliant saves to keep the game scoreless early. At the 33 second mark, Keeghan Howdeshell fired a shot that Gillam saved, but the rebound came right back to Howdeshell who fired it on net. Gillam was able to scramble to make a save to knock it down once again, but it came to Josh Elmes who looked like he had an empty net to shoot the puck into. Once again, Gillam moved into position to knock the rebound chance away, absolutely stoning Rapid City.
Right before the six minute mark, the Rush were able to take the lead. Myles McGurty fired a shot that Gillam saved. The rebound came right to Darian Romanko, who put it back on the Wichita netminder, but he was able to make the save one more time. Unfortunately, the puck deflected to Coulter who was left alone at the other side of the net. He knocked it in for his 11th goal of the year.
Rapid City extended their lead about seven minutes later. Tyler Poulsen led a 2-on-1 break into the Wichita end. He had a trailer as well, which seemed to distract Gillam a bit. Instead of making the pass, Poulsen took the shot, firing a wrist shot in for his eighth goal of the year. That made it 2-0, which would be the score heading to the first intermission.
In the second, the Rapid City Rush scored two goals 62 seconds apart to extend their lead to four. The first came at 5:40. Coulter carried the puck into the Thunder end, dropping it back to Poulsen. Poulsen passed it back to Coulter as he was heading to the goal line. He began to sweep across the crease, then fired a wrist shot to the short side that found the upper part of the net for his second goal of the game.
At 6:42, Peter Quenneville netted his 14th goal of the year. It seemed to be nothing more than the Rush piling on, but that goal proved to be the game winner. That would be it for Gillam as Eric Weninger came in for the Thunder.
At the 10 minute mark, the Wichita Thunder began their comeback. The Thunder were on a power-play and Tyler Parks had made two great saves, including one with his blocker on a point blank attempt.
Just as the man advantage was ending, Jason Salvaggio carried the puck into the corner in the Rapid City end. He fired a great pass across the crease to Cameron Hebig who was cruising toward the net. Hebig fired the one-timer past Parks and in for his sixth goal of the year.
The Thunder were on the board and would begin to put the pressure on in the third. They had been woefully outshot early on, 17-8 in the first and 28-20 through two, but things changed in the third.
Wichita made this a two-goal game at 8:40. Beau Starrett came out of the penalty box, and took a pass from Parkkonen as he entered the Rapid City end. Starrett waited for one of his teammates to create a screen, then fired a blast from the left faceoff circle that Parks never saw for his 11th goal of the year.
The Thunder pulled Weninger for the extra attacker and it paid off as they cut the deficit to one with 32 seconds left in the game. Starrett fired a shot from the point that Stefan Fournier deflected in for his 13th goal of the year. That had Wichita within one, but they could not get the equalizer as the Rush held on for the 4-3 victory.
Weninger was brilliant after coming on, stopping all 15 shots he faced. Parkkonen added two assists giving him a team leading 23 this season. Starrett added a goal and an assist.
The Wichita Thunder spring back into action on Saturday night when they take on the Rush again. Faceoff is scheduled for 8:05 CT.
By Robert Pannier
Featured Image Courtesy of Wichita Thunder