WICHITA, Kan. – The Wichita Thunder opened the 2018-19 season playing three of their first four games against their bitter rival, the Allen Americans. In that stretch, Wichita went 2-1-0-0, and it’s hard to imagine a much better start against your rival than what Wichita put together. If Saturday night’s tilt was any indication, this season series is likely to be as bitter and contentious as last season’s was.
Here are three impressions from the series:
Both offenses are pretty good…
You don’t win a combined four Kelly Cups (Martinson), a Brabham Cup (Cameron), and 749 ECHL regular-season games without putting together some bonafide offenses…and Steve Martinson and Malcolm Cameron have done just that. The two teams combined for 20 goals — including eight in the second period on Friday night — on 229 total shots during the series.
Braylon Shmyr and Alex Breton were the offensive stars for Allen, putting up a combined six goals and four points in the series. On the other side, former Allen forward and current Wichita captain Dyson Stevenson led all Thunder skaters with four goals and an assist.
It is interesting the big offensive guns for each side; Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Spencer Asuchak for Allen; Greg Chase and Ralph Cuddemi for Wichita, were held to six points (2G, 4A) combined in the three games. We’ll have to see if those names come to the forefront as the series goes on.
The power plays for Wichita and Allen were neutralized during the series, with the teams going a combined 1-34 (2.9%) on the man-advantage. Wichita scored the lone power-play goal when Jakob Stukel drove wide and slid a backhand through Motte near the left post at 17:26 of the second period Saturday night.
If this series continues to be contentious, as expected then one team will bust out to a clear advantage on the power-play.
Wichita/Allen is back…
In a rivalry that brought you the “flex-off…”
…and the pregame brawl…
it’s safe to say Wichita/Allen has become “appointment viewing” for any ECHL fan. For those on the outside, allow me to say that this rivalry has it all; two coaches who are locks for the ECHL Hall of Fame, two very evenly-matched teams, offense, goaltending, all the physicality and saltiness a fan can ask for.
For the players, the advantage to playing three heated games against your rival so soon is that it makes you battle-hardened for what is likely to be a slobberknocker of a Mountain Division race this season. The cohesion gained from sticking up for your teammates is something that cannot be measured and is sure to pay off as the hourglass continues to drain toward the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
For fans, the Thunder/Mavericks “rivalry” is a dreamt up one in an effort to sell tickets; while Wichita/Tulsa has been non-existent since the early 2000s. On the other side, Allen really hasn’t had a bonafide rival since Fort Worth went away after the 2012-13 season.
As someone who has covered every chapter of this rivalry since it was born in the 2013 Central Hockey League finals, it is refreshing to see this become a true rivalry, one that doesn’t need to be played up at all. The only thing that might make this better is for the two sides to play a seven-game playoff series. We just might see that next spring, but for now…Wichita/Allen round four is scheduled for November 11 at INTRUST Bank Arena. Circle that on your calendar.