WICHITA, Kan. – Just when hopes were dwindling for Wichita on Saturday night, Jakob Stukel came to the rescue twice as the Thunder come from behind to win 5-4 over the Utah Grizzlies.
After a controversial slashing call on P.C. Labrie, Wichita was forced to kill a penalty in the first half of the first period. At 8:09, Mike Economos made the penalty cost Wichita, scoring on a nice backhand over Ty Rimmer‘s pads.
Minutes later, Wichita had their first opportunity on the man advantage but were unable to convert once again this weekend.
The 1-0 lead would hold true for Utah although the Thunder outshot the Grizzlies 11-10. The atmosphere inside INTRUST Bank Arena remained the same as Friday night, disappointed and lifeless. Stefan Fournier had something to say about that.
At 10:13 in the second, Fournier ended Kevin Carr‘s 90-minute shutout streak.
The happy feeling would not last long as just nine seconds later, Ryan Walters answered with his third goal of the weekend. Once again, the life had been sucked out of INTRUST Bank Arena.
After a couple minutes of back and forth, somewhat physical hockey, Utah doubled their lead on a beauty, bar-down goal by Economos on the powerplay at 16:08 in the second.
The pain got worse three minutes later when Walters scored his second of the night. The play developed on a turnover by Wichita in their own end and a shot from an impossible angle.
Utah ended the second period leading 4-1, Thunder fans and players alike searching for answers.
It just happened Lane Bauer had the exact answer Wichita was looking for with a raised wrist shot over Carr and great setup by Stukel.
As the Thunder’s hopes began to fall, Stukel took matters into his own hands. Directly after a faceoff win, Stukel would find the puck after a mishandled save and bury it behind Carr at 16:24 in the third, reigniting Wichita’s fire.
Wichita, with the help of over 5000 Thunder faithful, evened the game at four on the shoulders of Travis Brown and a rocket of a slap shot at 17:09, once again directly after a faceoff win.
A couple minutes later, the final horn would sound to a tied game.
Wichita and Utah readied themselves for five more minutes of hockey but Stukel, Steven Iacobellis and Brown would only need 34 seconds.
After a forced turnover in the first 10 seconds of overtime, Iacobellis skated the puck back into the defensive zone to ready an attack for Wichita. After circling the puck behind the net a couple times, Stukel would find the puck on his stick just long enough to fire a wrist shot under Carr’s glove, giving Wichita the 5-4 overtime victory.
“Iacobellis gave me a nice pass and I just cut back and threw it on net and i was lucky to go low glove,” Stukel said about the buildup of the game-winning goal.
The crowd that had once been silent, searching for answered erupted inside INTRUST Bank Arena as Wichita completed one of the biggest momentum-shifting games of the season.
“It doesn’t matter who you dress, its the quality of the people and the buy-in of the people who are playing and thats all it is,” Head coach malcolm Cameron said.
Wichita lost the battle of special teams on Saturday night, the penalty kill going 0-for-2 for the second straight night and the powerplay going 0-for-2 as well. Wichita outshot Utah in the game, 35-21. This marked just the 14th time all year Wichita outshot an opponent. The Thunder are now 9-5-0-0 when outshooting opponents.
Carr was credited with a 31-save loss while Rimmer picked up his first win of the year, a 17-save affair.
Wichita returns to action Tuesday night as they look to finish the five-game homestand over .500 against the Allen Americans. Puck drop is set for 7:05 P.M., Matthew Harding and I will get you set for action at 6:30 P.M. on The Sin Bin app.