WICHITA, Kan. – The Wichita Thunder and Utah Grizzlies hooked up Wednesday for the second of a three-game set and the first school day game for Wichita since October 27, 2016.
The last time Wichita hosted a schoolday game was against the Tulsa Oilers on November 27, 2002. It was a game that ended with a 6-5 Oilers win in overtime. In that contest, Jason Duda led all scorers with four points (1G, 4A).
In front of more than 5,500 screaming kids, the two teams put on a scoring clinic in the opening period. Caleb Herbert attempted to silence the crowd by scoring his 11th goal of the season 8:52 into the contest to give Utah a 1-0 lead. In typical Thunder fashion, however, they answered quickly — just 45 seconds later — when Matt Schmalz fired a sharp angle shot past Cannata for his first of the season, which tied the game at one.
Thirty-nine seconds later, Steven Iacobellis scored his second of the season and put Wichita ahead 2-1 just past the midway point of the opening period.
Utah didn’t waste any time equaling the score as Tim McGauley beat Stuart Skinner from a sharp angle and tied it at two. Ralph Cuddemi re-gained the lead for the Thunder as Colin Larkin won a face-off to the left of Cannata. Cuddemi skated to the middle and fired a wrist shot back across the grain for his third of the year.
In the second, Jake Marchment scored his first of two at 14:51 to tie the game back up, this time at three. Ryan Walters made a nifty between-the-legs pass to him at the left post.
Travis Brown made it 4-3 at 5:17 of the third period. Hayden Hodgson made a nice play to keep the puck in the zone. He tipped it down the left wall to Schmalz, who found Brown at the right circle. He fired it past Cannata for his second of the year.
Again, Utah was up to the task, tying it just 22 seconds later with a goal from Nolan De Jong to make it 4-4. At 18:05, De Jong let a shot go that redirected off the end wall. Marchment was there to pick up the loose puck and put it past the outreached leg of Skinner to make it 5-4. Cannata held the fort in the final two minutes and Utah earned the regulation win.
Wichita had four different goal scorers in the contest. The loss snaps a three-game streak for Wichita where the team needed more than 60 minutes to decide the outcome.
Wichita and Utah will wrap-up their three-game series on Friday night at INTRUST Bank Arena.