Thunder Surge Past Mavericks in Third Period, 6-1
An exciting one-goal game turned into a blow out, as the Wichita Thunder scored four third-period goals on their way to a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Mavericks on Thursday evening. The special teams units continued to shine for Wichita, killing off four power-play opportunities for Kansas City, while adding two shorthanded goals and a power-play goal of their own. Dean Stewart led the Thunder with three assists and Evan Buitenhuis put together another dominating start, earning his seventh victory since joining Wichita.
Things looked like they were going Kansas City’s way when Beau Starrett took a delay of game penalty 48 seconds into the contest when his clearing attempt went up and over the glass. That set the Mavericks on the power-play, but it would be an incredible individual effort by Stephen Johnson that put the Thunder on top. Johnson tipped the puck past Willie Corrin at the Thunder blueline, giving himself a breakaway through the neutral zone and into the Kansas City end. Johnson moved in about 5 feet away from Mavericks goaltender Matt Greenfield before firing a wrist shot that beat him over the glove for his fourth goal of the year.
The Mavericks responded less than one minute later just after Starrett came out of the penalty box. Marcus Crawford took a pass from Zach Osburn at the point, moving down toward the right face-off circle before making a beautiful pass across the slot to Bryan Lemos at the back door. Lemos blasted a one-timer by Buitenhuis for his ninth goal of the year and the score was tied at one less than three minutes into the contest.
Kansas City nearly took the lead just after the five-minute mark. Darik Angeli carried the puck into the Wichita zone, moving down the boards before dishing the puck into the slot looking for a redirect for Lane Scheidl at the far post, but Buitenhuis was able to stretch his right pad far enough to kick the puck away and into the corner.
The play continued with the puck moving back to the point where a shot was fired that missed, but Corrin gained control behind the net, firing a beautiful backhand pass out front to C.J. Eick, who directed the puck up toward the corner near the far post, but Buitenhuis flashed his glove out, knocking the puck down before dropping down on top of it.
That proved to be huge, as just over four minutes later the Thunder took the lead. Stewart made a cross ice pass to Matteo Gennaro just before he entered the Kansas City zone. Gennaro moved in, making a drop pass to Garrett Schmitz who fired a wrist shot that beat Greenfield for his fourth tally of the year.
Neither team was able to score a goal in the second, but there was plenty of great action as both goaltenders made huge shaves to keep this a one-goal contest. For Kansas City, Greenfield made a huge save just over eight minutes into the period. Starrett carried the puck into the Mavericks end, then made a nice move to get past the Kansas City defenseman, moving in on a breakaway, but Greenfield denied the scoring chance.
About four minutes later, it was Buitenhuis’ turn to shine. Angeli made a great pass into the slot to Scheidl who was left alone in front. Scheidl moved to his forehand, trying to get Buitenhuis to shift to his right, before going back to his backhand looking for a shot inside the far post, but the Wichita goaltender was able to stretch out and make a great glove save.
A minute later, it was Greenfield with a huge save. Off the face-off, Stewart fired a blast from the point that was saved by the Mavericks goaltender, but the rebound came right to Anthony Beauregard, who lifted the puck up looking for the top corner, but Greenfield got his glove out, knocking the puck down and falling on it to earn another stoppage of play.
To start out the third, Phil Marinaccio nearly tied the score just 68 seconds into the frame when he made a nice move through the neutral zone, moving past two Wichita defensemen, giving him a breakaway as he swept in on Buitenhuis. Marinaccio swooped across the crease, looking for the backhand shot into the upper corner but, once again, Buitenhuis came up huge, stretching out to make a great glove save to keep his team on top by a goal.
After making a number of huge saves for the Thunder, the offense finally rewarded their goaltender, extending their lead to two 4:19 into the third period. Alex Peters had the puck knocked off his stick along the boards inside the Kansas City end, but Beauregard gained control, making a nice no-look backhand flip to Charlie Combs. Combs moved into the high slot before firing a wrist shot that beat Greenfield over the glove for his second goal of the year.
A little over two minutes later the Wichita lead became three. Starrett won the draw inside the Mavericks zone back to Peter Crinella. Crinella blasted a one timer past Greenfield for his 10th goal of the year.
With about eight minutes left in the game and the Thunder on a 4-3 power-play, Gennaro gave his team a four-goal lead. Jay Dickman carried the puck behind the Kansas City net, moving to the side before firing a pass across the crease to Gennaro who tipped it in for his 18th goal of the year. That gave Wichita a power-play goal in four straight games.
With two minutes left in the game, Spencer Dorowicz added the second short-handed goal of the game for Wichita. Dorowicz took a pass from Stewart inside his own zone, then raced through the neutral zone completely unmolested. As the Wichita forward closed in on Greenfield, he fired a wrist shot past the blocker of the Mavericks goaltender for his fifth goal of the year. That made the score 6-1, which would be the final.
Stewart finished with three assists and both Gennaro and Johnson had a goal and an assist for Wichita. Buitenhuis stopped 24 of 25 shots to move to 7-3-0 in a Thunder uniform. Wichita killed off all four power-play opportunities for Kansas City, giving them seven straight games without allowing a power-play goal.
These teams will meet again on Friday evening. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier