Big players step up in big situations.
That statement could not have been more true than Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena, when Wichita Thunder team captain Ian Lowe fired a wrist shot past Quad City Mallards goaltender Steve Michalek to give the Thunder a 5-4 win.
Wichita opened the scoring at 4:08 of the first period when defenseman Brandon Martell jumped on a rebound and banged the puck past Michalek to give Wichita a 1-0 lead. Vladimir Nikiforov would even the game with 1:43 left in the opening period, making a nice play to beat Thunder goaltender Grant Rollheiser.
During the period, referee Michael McCreary was injured tripped over himself and was motionless on the ice for a brief time in the corner of the Thunder defensive zone to the left of Grant Rollheiser. McCreary needed help off the ice from linesmen Mitch Macpherson and Erik Contino. Back-up referee Mike Sheehan would finish the game.
The second period was a period of momentum shifts. The Thunder came out from the intermission and owned the first eight minutes of the period, that included goals from Todd Hosmer and Michael Neal. After the mid-period media timeout, the Mallards seemed to regroup themselves and stole the momentum back, thanks to a pair of goals from Logan Nelson. The teams would head to the locker rooms tied at three.
Wichita would strike first again in the third period, as Andy Huff jumped on the rebound from an Anthony Deluca shot to give the Thunder a 4-3 lead. The Thunder would hold that lead for much of the period, until Matt Neal tied the game at four, just as the second Mallards power play of the night was expiring. Mallards team captain Darren McMillan would be called for hooking with 56.1 seconds left in regulation, but Wichita would not capitalize on the chance in regulation or overtime.
Thunder fans would need the TUMS during the extra session, when defenseman Dan Milan interfered with Michalek, forcing the team to kill a 4-on-3 advantage. Quad City had three great chances to end it, but Rollheiser was equal to the task.
In the shootout, forward Joey Sides scored as he was falling down to make it 1-0. Raphael Bussieres tied the shootout at the top of round two. The next five shooters were denied by the netminders, giving Lowe a chance to be the hero. He carried the puck out wide to the left and fired it past Michalek to give Wichita the shootout victory.
The Thunder are now 2-0-0 (4 pts) on the young season and sit atop the midwest division. Wichita and Missouri will open up their season-series with a home-and-home set Friday (Intrust Bank Arena) and Saturday nights (Silverstein Eye Centers Arena).
Other Notes: The team announced prior to the game that forward Cullen Bradshaw was placed on waivers, while the team claimed forward Peter Sakaris off waivers from Cincinnati and placed him on reserve. In 103 ECHL games, Sakaris has 44 points (20G, 24A).