WICHITA, Kan. – Playoff hockey finally returned to Wichita on Sunday afternoon.
The Wichita Thunder played their first home playoff game since Friday, May 10, 2013, a span of 1,800 days between home playoff games.
Everything has changed with the organization since then, but one thing hasn’t: You need the combination of great defense, solid goaltending, and timely scoring to win games in the playoffs.
After a feeling-out process that didn’t last very long, with Wichita getting on the board 7:12 into the contest. Lane Bauer potted his first career playoff goal after some nice pressure by the forward unit of Bauer-Steven Iacobellis–Brayden Low. The forward unit forced a turnover, and Iacobellis fired a shot onto Cannata, and the rebound popped out to Bauer who put it into the cage.
From there, Colorado began forcing much of the action in Wichita end. From the 12:48 mark through the first half of the third period (a span of 42:48,) the Eagles outshot Wichita 23-8. In that span, Shane Starrett, whom the Eagles’ lit up for eight goals the weekend before, was spot on, making save after save and keeping the Thunder in the game.
In the dying stages of a Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin minor for interference, Drayson Bowman scored during a net-mouth scramble in front of Starrett to tie the game at one. The marker, on the power-play, came on the Eagles’ fourth chance of the evening.
Through regulation, Colorado dominated Wichita on the shot chart, 34-12.
For the rest of regulation, Wichita and Colorado traded chances but neither side could solve the other goaltender.
During the overtime, Wichita again couldn’t get much offense generated and were hemmed in their end several times thanks to icing calls. After Colorado created several chances in the first few minutes of overtime, Eagles forward Ryan Olsen would be sent to the box for slashing 4:26 into sudden-death. Colorado would flip the script, as defenseman Matt Register would collect the puck in his own zone and snap it onto the tape of J.C. Beaudin who would streak down the ice for the shorthanded, game-winner at the 5:23 mark of OT.
Starrett takes the loss despite saving 37 of 39 shots on net. Cannata picks up the win, saving 12 of 13 Wichita Thunder chances.
Game two of this Mountain Division Semifinal series is tomorrow night at INTRUST Bank Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm CT.