Weninger Rebounds to Blank Grizzlies, 3-0
Evan Weninger surely knows how to recover. One game after giving up four goals on 11 shots, the Wichita Thunder netminder returned to his usual self, stopping all 38 shots he faced to lead his team to a 3-0 victory over the Utah Grizzlies. Three second period goals were more than enough for the Weninger. Brayden Watts had two assists for Wichita.
Both Weninger and Kevin Carr were outstanding in the first period. Utah outshot Wichita 13-7, but both teams came away empty-handed. Weninger came up with a huge save with a little over six minutes left in the first. Utah won the draw deep in the Thunder zone. The puck came right to Josh Dickinson alone in front of the net. He made a great move to his backhand, looking to get the puck over the pads of the Thunder goaltender, but Weninger was having none of it, making a great glove save.
Carr made a huge save of his own with a little over two minutes left in the period. Anthony Beauregard fired a shot from the point that missed the net, hitting off the end boards and right out to Jay Dickman on the other side of the goal. Carr was completely out of position but was able to dive to the other side of the net in time to stop Dickman’s attempt.
Into the second the game went where the Thunder would take complete control, outshooting the Grizzlies 19-13. That led to three Wichita tallies.
The first came exactly one minute into the period. Watts had the puck behind the net, centering it in front to Stefan Fournier. Carr made the save on Fournier’s attempt, but Beauregard was able to knock in the loose puck for his team leading 11th goal of the year.
At the 8:40 mark, the Thunder were back on the board. This was a beautiful play that began with Wichita winning the draw in their own end. Cam Clarke carried the puck out of the zone up along the boards. He fed it to Beau Starrett in the neutral zone who passed the puck to John Albert just before he entered the Grizzlies end. Albert then fired a shot that Starrett tipped past Carr for his fourth goal of the year to make it 2-0 Wichita.
With a little over two minutes left in the period, Stephen Johnson scored his first professional goal thanks to a great individual effort. Johnson battled for the puck along the end boards, gaining control before moving in front of the net on Carr. His first attempt was stopped, but he did not give up, pushing the rebound past the Utah netminder to make it 3-0.
The Grizzlies put the pressure on in the third outshooting Wichita 12-3, but they were getting nothing past Weninger on this night. The Thunder netminder stopped all 38 shots he faced. That gave him the first shutout of his professional career, dropping his goals against average to 2.58. Watts finished with the first multi-point game of his career.
The Wichita Thunder (19-6-3) will take on Utah (13-9-8) again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier