Wichita Thunder fans attending their team’s home opener got their money’s worth last night, as the Thunder beat the Quad City Mallards 5-4 in a shootout.
It was a very back and forth game. Brandon Martell scored the first Thunder goal of the season t 4:08 of the first period. Danick Gauthier and Ian Lowe assisted on the goal.
Shortly after that, referee Michael McCreary tripped over himself and was motionless on the ice for a brief time. A stretcher was brought out but thankfully was not needed as he was helped off the ice by a trainer and a linesman. The two linesmen — Mitch Macpherson and Erik Contino — called the game for a few minutes before replacement referee Mike Sheehan took the ice.
With a minute and 43 seconds remaining in the first period, Vladimir Nikiforov scored on a backhand from a pass by Matt Neal, tying the game at one. The tie did not last long. Todd Hosmer scored after a Mallards turnover only 42 seconds into the second period. Gauthier and Lowe both assisted on this goal, each getting their second assist of the night.
The Thunder scored a power play goal at 3:21 of the second period after Austin Coldwell was sent to the penalty box for slashing at 1:53. The gamesheet at time of writing incorrectly lists Martell as the slasher. This is strange because the gamesheet does list the goal as a power play goal. If Martell had been in the box, it would have been a shorthanded goal. In any case the goal was scored by Michael Neal on a rebound from a shot by Joey Sides. This gave the Thunder a 3-1 lead.
Logan Nelson answered with two goals. He scored at 11:14 in the second period on the gloveside of Grant Rollheiser. Nick Grasso and Miles Koules got assists. A minute and 31 seconds later Nelson scored again, this time on a breakaway set up by blueliner Mike Monfredo.
Pearce Eviston and Dan Milan got tangled along the boards with 2:47 left in the second. Milan was slow to get up and headed to the locker room but returned for the third period.
Two minutes and 49 seconds into the third, Anthony Deluca jammed the puck under Steve Michalek’s glove. Andrew Huff was able to get to the puck behind Michalek and put it into the back of the net, giving the Thunder a 4-3 lead. The score stayed that way until Matt Neal tied the game at four apiece at 18:14 on a power play. Collin Valcourt and Guillaume Gelinas were credited with the assists.
With 56.1 seconds left on the clock, Darren McMillan was sent to the penalty box for tripping. This provided a lot of drama in the final minute, but the Thunder were unable to score and the game went to overtime. The penalty carried over to the 3-on-3 overtime period, but the Mallards were able to kill the penalty. Milan then received a goalie interference call at 2:15 of the OT period after crashing the net and knocking Michalek’s mask off. Michalek retaliated by hitting Milan with his goalie stick.
The Mallards failed to score on their power play chance and the game headed to the shootout. This season the shootout is only three rounds. If the teams are tied after that then they continue until one team is ahead after a round. Sides scored for Wichita in the first round. Raphael Bussieres scored for the Mallards in the second round. It then went scoreless until the fifth round when Lowe scored the game-winner for the Thunder.
During the offseason, former Mallards Paxton Leroux and Mason Baptista signed with Wichita. Baptista played four regular season games for Quad City before being injured. Baptista played last night and was +1. Leroux played 43 games for the Mallards and racked up 176 penalty minutes. Leroux is on the 21 day injured reserve list and did not play.
This article was written by contributor Anna Headley.