WICHITA, Kan. – The task is simple this week, if Wichita can beat Allen Wednesday night, the Western Conference title is theirs. Wichita has never won their conference or division since the move to the ECHL. Wednesday’s game could not only decide the West, but also provide a potential second-round playoff preview.
The Past Week:
An Oil Leak (1-2-0-0: 2 of 6 possible points gained):
- It was more of the same for the Tulsa Oilers this weekend, as they out-grit Wichita two more times to take the season series 9-1-2-1.
- On Friday, it was Wichita who had the fast start, leading 2-0 after the first. Tulsa would score the next three before allowing Wichita to tie the game late off the stick of Cam Clarke. But with 11 seconds left, Tulsa pulled Roman Durny for an even-strength offensive zone faceoff – which they won and scored on seconds later to take the game 4-3 in regulation.
- Saturday was more of the same, Wichita scoring the opening two goals in the first. Shortly after the 10-minute mark of the first, the Thunder went flat. Their hitting scaled back exponentially and they began losing nearly every 50/50 puck battle (which Tulsa already dominates at). Tulsa would keep Wichita off the scoreboard and score the next five goals en route to a 5-2 win in Wichita.
- As the Wichita Thunder concluded their home regular-season schedule, It was a flipped script from the beginning of the weekend. Tulsa scored the opening two goals, both in the second period to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. Wichita scored three in the third to take a short-lived lead before Tulsa tied the game with just over four minutes remaining. Consistent goal-scorer Matteo Gennero put home the overtime winner to give Wichita their first win of the weekend and keep their hopes at a Western Conference title alive.
- The Thunder showed incredible fight Sunday, increasing their record on Sundays this year to 8-3-0-1. They are also 3-1-0-0 on Sundays following a Saturday night loss.
- After not scoring in five straight games, Gennaro found the nylon (and the crossbar for that matter) when it really mattered.
- Brayden Watts has points in eight of his last 11 games (4g,7a).
- Both Friday and Sunday were a couple of Wichita’s most disciplined nights in some time – taking a combined four penalties.
- Wichita’s penalty kill allowed at least one goal in each of the weekend’s games – dropping them to 2nd in the league. They only killed seven of the 11 Tulsa powerplays (63.6%).
- In rhythm with the rest of the regular season, the powerplay struggled as well, going 0-for-6 through the weekend.
- Anthony Beauregard remains out of the lineup, a slight concern for Wichita faithful. While the likely ECHL MVP is missed, Wichita has been significantly helped by the return of the quartet from Toronto – Gordie Green, Jeremy McKenna, Bobby McMann and Noel Hoefenmayer – who have combined for 10 points (5g,5a) since their return.
Who’s In, Who’s Out:
- Beauregard is out Wednesday night as Wichita placed him on the injured reserve list Tuesday, June 1, retroactive to 5/22 (therefore will be eligible to play Saturday night in Kansas City).
- It is expected that Dean Stewart will return to the team before Saturday night’s regular-season finale with Kansas City following his stint with Pacific Division Champions Bakersfield in the AHL.
The Statistical Overview:
- Team Leaders
- Goals: Gennero — 25
- Assists: Beauregard — 49
- Points: Beauregard — 71 (2nd-ECHL)
- +/-: Beauregard — +27
- Penalty Minutes: Jacob Graves & Mathieu Gagnon — 113
- Games Played: Jay Dickman & Clarke — 69
- Evan Buitenhuis – 16-6-0-4 record, 2.29 GAA (2nd in ECHL), 0.931 SV% (1st in ECHL) and three shutouts (T-2nd in ECHL).
- Evan Weninger – 16-8-4-0 record, 2.65 GAA (7th in ECHL), 0.925 SV% (2nd in ECHL) and one shutout.
- Special Teams
- Powerplay: 36-for-245 for 14.7% (13th in ECHL)
- Penalty Kill: 246-for-285 for 83.3% (2nd in ECHL)
The Coming Week:
It all Comes Down to This:
- Wichita heads to Allen to face the Americans for the final time this season. In a building Wichita normally struggles in, the Thunder have won three times inside the Allen Event Center this season. Again, a win tonight gives the Thunder the Western Conference title and moves them ever closer to home ice throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
- The Thunder then close the regular-season on Saturday night in Kansas City. This is a series Wichita has ruled this year, going 13-3-1-1. Lane Scheidl has been the thorn in Wichita’s back, scoring 12 points (7g,5a) in his 18 games against Wichita this year. As for Wichita, Beauregard leads the way with 20 points (3g, 17a) in 18 games against the Mavs.
- Another interesting bit, 13 different Wichita skaters have scored at least three goals against Kansas City this year.
- Both tonight and Saturday’s games begin at 7:05pm. Catch Matthew Harding and myself on The Sin Bin pregame show at 6:35pm both nights. You can listen to every Wichita Thunder regular-season and playoff game on The Sin Bin app.
Around the ECHL:
- For a full rundown of playoff scenarios and previews, see Harding’s daily post here.