WICHITA, Kan. – The Wichita Thunder opened a five-game homestand in style Friday night, getting two goals from Ralph Cuddemi and a 27-save performance from Shane Starrett to defeat the Rapid City Rush 3-1.
The win is Wichita’s second in a row and the team has earned points in three of their last four games.
Wichita held a largely listless Rapid City Rush squad to 28 shots, most of them from the outside.
“We made a renewed commitment to playing good defense,” said Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron. “You don’t have to play risky. We’ve got enough firepower in our line up to be able to be patient and smart and still score three goals a night. And that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Wichita jumped out in front at the 4:57 mark of the first period when Chad Butcher‘s shot pinballed off the shin pad of Riley Weselowski and re-directed past Steve Michalek to give Wichita a 1-0 lead. 59 seconds later, Daniel Leavens would respond by tapping a puck through the five-hole of Shane Starrett to tie the game at 1-1.
Cuddemi would score his first of two on the night just 21 seconds into the middle frame, when he fired a one-time feed from Nick Latta past Michalek for his 17th of the season and a 2-1 Thunder lead. 8:26 later, Cuddemi would add his 18th of the season when Jon Puskar tipped a puck free into the slot and he buried a wrist shot off the left post and in for a 3-1 lead. For Puskar, the assist would be his first point in a Thunder sweater.
During the remaining period-plus of the contest, Michalek made several grade-A saves on Travis Brown, Travis Ewanyk, and Latta. Despite the loss, Michalek’s record since November 7 fell to 9-5-4.
“Their goaltender (Michalek) played really well tonight,” Cameron said. “We had some great opportunities around the net…there’s a reason why he’s been in the American League all year, cause he’s a solid goaltender.”
Wichita continues their five-game homestand with another contest against the Rapid City Rush Saturday night. Don’t forget to follow @SinBinThunder on Twitter for all the latest news surrounding the Wichita Thunder.