RAPID CITY, S.D. — The visiting Wichita Thunder got a visit from the own personal leprechaun on Friday night, receiving the gift of a timely bounce to counter the rally from the Rapid City Rush and escape with a much-needed win.
The opening twenty minutes of play saw each team’s respective netminder hold strong between the pipes, turning away a combined 23 shots and keeping the opposition from scoring with the man advantage.
In the closing minutes of the period, Wichita was able to double their lead. Call it the “Luck of the Irish” or that the “Hockey gods” were smiling down the Thunder, but it looked as though Ryan Van Stralen was actually looking to send the puck across the ice but instead it took a lucky Thunder bounce and deflected off Ian Brady‘s stick and by Vay at 14:19 for the 2-0 advantage.
It looked as though Wichita was going to tighten the noose and keep Rapid City’s rally hopes in check the rest of the game. That is until Rapid City’s leading scorer padded his season total when he pocketed his 22nd goal of the season at 15:55. The Rush defense was able to get Thunder netminder Nick Riopel on a screen when Peter Sivak blasted the puck in to cut Wichita’s lead to 2-1.
The Rush continued their rally just before the period’s final horn when Andrew Radjenovic whizzed the puck by Riopel to square the game up 2-2 at 18:57.
Rapid City was looking strong heading into the 2nd intermission, outshooting Wichita 27-to-23 through 40 minutes of hockey and the momentum all seemed to be in their favor.
Another fortuitous bounce went in favor of the Thunder in the final frame that would eventually seal the deal for Wichita. Just 6:20 into the period Mark MacMillan looked to be on the receiving end of a pass from Cuddemi but instead the puck connected with his skate and bounced by Vay for the eventual go-ahead goal. Rapid City pulled Vay in the final 60 seconds, but they weren’t able to get the equalizer to force extra time.
Nick Riopel is credited with the win stopping 33-of-35 shots on the night while Adam Vay takes the loss stopping 28-of-31 shots. Neither team was able to find the back of the net when on the man advantage.
The win in regulation keeps the Thunder securely in the 3rd spot in the Mountain Division with Tulsa and Allen hot on their heels.
Both teams will square off for the final time this season Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm MT at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.