WICHITA, KS – The Wichita Thunder entered Friday night’s contest against the Kansas City Mavericks looking to shake off the stench of a losing skid. Since the teams last met on December 6, Wichita went 1-5 and fell from first in the Mountain Division and Western Conference, to third in the division (fourth in the west.) Also new since the last time the two clubs played, the additions of Nick Bligh and Johnny Daniels, both of whom were acquired via trade this week.
After Friday night’s contest, consider the stench removed with authority.
“I don’t think we played badly over that stretch (five-game roadtrip plus Tuesday’s game) at all,” said Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron.”We either couldn’t get close the deal or get a break. We had no gas on Tuesday.”
Chad Butcher got the scoring started for Wichita at 5:24 of the opening period, when he potted the rebound off an Evan Polei sharp angle shot to give Wichita a 1-0 lead. In almost the same kind of play as the Butcher goal, Daniels scored his first goal of the season at 11:03 of the period to give Wichita a 2-0 lead. Four minutes later, Daniels used his speed to get his second of the night, capitalizing off a beautiful pass from Etienne Boutet to extend the lead to 3-0.
With Wichita controlling much of the play in the middle stanza, Dyson Stevenson got his name on the scoresheet when he buried a puck that was laying just outside MacDonald’s crease to give Wichita a 4-0 lead. Interestingly, through the first 38 minutes, Kansas City only had eight shots on net. They finished the period with 14 total, thanks to a power play in the dying minutes of the period.
Dan Correale, who beat Travis Brown in a footrace and spoiled Joel Rumpel‘s shutout bud with 8:37 left in regulation to briefly narrow the Thunder lead to three goals. It would be the first shorthanded goal Wichita has allowed this season.
Minutes later, Ralph Cuddemi would net his eighth of the season, beating MacDonald blocker-side to close the scoring at 5-1.
Speaking of his new acquisitions, Cameron said: “Sometimes your rosters are feast or famine. It just happened to be that Wheeling was a time of ‘feast,’ where they really liked the kid (Daniels) and the coach (Jeff Christian) wanted to get him the opportunity to play and we happened to be in a famine time.”
Cameron continued: “As soon as I heard Nick was available, I jumped on him. I liked the way he played in the three games I saw him in. He’s a scoring threat every single time. Losing Iacobellis, Chase, DeBlouw, Platzer and O’Brien, not having that layer of scoring, we needed another guy who can score and it worked out really well. Plus, I didn’t have to give anything up.”
The big plus from the night was the Thunder defense, who held Kansas City shotless for a pair of six-plus minute stretches during the first two periods. In fact, the Thunder held Kansas City to just eight shots through the game’s first 37-plus minutes.
Rumpel made 25 stops on the evening, picking up his tenth win of the season. Daniels, Cuddemi and Bauer each finished with three-point nights. Polei finished with two assists on the night. Mark MacMillan added an assist on the night and retained his team lead in points.
Wichita and Kansas City will conclude their pre-Christmas slate with one more matchup Saturday night. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm.