Weninger Corals Mavericks, Thunder Win, 2-1
One night after Dean Stewart scored the game winner with a little more than three minutes left in the contest, it was Stefan Fournier’s opportunity to deliver the late game heroics, tallying the go-ahead go with 1:37 left to give the Wichita Thunder a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Mavericks. While the late scores may be the headline, it has been the stellar goaltending of Evan Weninger that has given them the opportunities and that was the case on Sunday afternoon, as he stopped 35 of 36 shots to move to 8-3-2 on the season.
This was a great goaltending battle between Weninger and Mavericks netminder Matt Ginn. Ginn was the one was tested early in the contest as the Thunder outshot the Mavericks 13-8 in the first period. However, in the second, Kansas City took control of this game and it was only a set of great saves by Weninger that kept the game scoreless.
The first of these came at 4:49 when a shot from the point was deflected to the side of the net where Boston Leier was standing all alone. He fired a shot that looked destined for the back of the net, but Weninger was able to quickly slide over to make the glove save.
Almost three minutes later the Thunder netminder came up big again. A loose puck bounced toward Luka Bafia who was standing alone at the far post. Weninger had come out to play the initial shot and was completely out of position, but he dove to make an absolutely amazing save to deny Bafia on what looked like an easy tally.
The game remained scoreless through the first 42 minutes, but Kansas City finally got on the board at 2:23 of the third. Leier gained control of the puck in the Wichita end and fired a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that found the inside of the far post for his second goal of the year.
Wichita looked like they would get it back three minutes later when Matteo Gennaro carried the puck toward the net. When he got about three feet from the crease, he dished it across the slot to Beau Starrett who directed the puck toward what looked like an empty part of the net, but Ginn quickly slid over and kicked away the attempt.
It was beginning to look like Weninger was going to be a hard luck loser, but the Thunder finally got on the board at 12:16. With the faceoff in the Kansas City end and Wichita on the power play, the draw was won back to Gennaro. He passed it across to Anthony Beauregard, who fired a laser from the slot that beat Ginn for his sixth goal of the year.
That set up the late game heroics by Fournier. At 18:23, the Thunder were buzzing around the net battling for a loose puck. Jay Dickman tried to knock it in, but Ginn was able to keep it out. However, the puck went to the other side of the crease where Fournier knocked it in for his 10th goal of the season.
The Mavericks pulled their netminder looking for the equalizer, but it was not to be. Weninger finished with 35 saves, including 27 over the final two periods. Patrik Parkkonen assisted on both goals for the Thunder.
Wichita will welcome the Rapid City Rush for three games starting on Friday. The contest is scheduled to start at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier