Weninger, Gennaro Lead Thunder to Shootout Victory, 3-2
The Wichita Thunder continued their winning ways on Friday night, downing the Utah Grizzlies in a shootout win, 3-2. Evan Weninger won his sixth game of the year, stopping 29 shots, and Matteo Gennaro delivered the game-winner, scoring in the fourth round to keep Wichita (12-4-1) atop the Western Conference standings.
The Thunder took the lead 3:35 into the contest. Cam Clarke fired a shot from along the boards that hit off the skate of a Grizzlies defender and right to John Albert in the slot. He blasted a one-timer by Utah netminder Evan Buitenhuis for his third goal of the year giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead.
Just before the 11-minute mark of the frame, the Grizzlies tied the score. Ryan Lowney fired a shot from the point that was deflected into the corner. Diego Cuglietta quickly skated over and retrieved the loose puck, circling through the right faceoff circle where he fired a rising shot that beat Weninger to the far post for his second goal of the year.
The score was tied at one entering the second period and remained that way through much of the frame. Finally, at 15:16, Anthony Beauregard put Wichita back on top. Utah fired the puck into the Wichita end. Weninger came out of the net to beat a Grizzlies forward to the puck, firing it along the boards to Beauregard just inside his own blue line. He headed down the boards and into the Grizzlies end, then swept across the slot before firing a wrist shot that beat Buitenhuis to the glove side for his fourth goal of the year.
Wichita clung to the one-goal lead, but Utah tied it 2:53 into the third thanks to a beautiful tic-tac-toe set up by the Grizzlies. Matthew Boucher passed the puck to Cedric Pare just inside the right faceoff circle. He quickly dished it to A.J. White who redirected the puck into the net for his third goal of the season.
Tied at the two the game went to overtime. Each team had the opportunity for the game-winner. Gennaro had a breakaway about two minutes into the extra frame, but Buitenhuis made a great glove save to deny Gennaro. Just before the horn sounded, Matthew Hoover fired a one-timer that beat Weninger, but it hit off the post and out.
Onto the shootout the game went. Each team scored in the opening two rounds. Neither team did in the third setting up sudden death. In Round 4, Weninger stopped Boucher’s chance with a nice kick save.
That brought Gennaro on. He slowly moved down the right side then crept across the crease getting the Utah netminder to commit to his right. Gennaro was able to get Buitenhuis down, then simply shifted back to his right, tucking the puck into the near empty net with the game winner. That gave Wichtia their third win in a row and eighth in the last 10 games.
These two teams take to the ice again on Saturday. Game time is scheduled for 8:10 Wichita time.
By Robert Pannier