On a rainy Pink at the Rink night, the Wichita Thunder resumed their rivalry with the Colorado Eagles after a layoff which lasted four-plus seasons. Colorado left the former Central Hockey League to join the ECHL after their President’s Cup Final defeat to the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in May 2011.
The Thunder entered the game with Colorado carrying a three-game losing streak where they scored a combined three goals and allowed 10 goals.
“We came off a three-game losing streak so coach challenged us pretty good this week in practice, challenged us for a big start,” said Thunder defenseman Brandon Martell.
Heading into Friday night’s game, the team acquired Todd Fiddler from the Atlanta Gladiators, but had to fill a huge void in the line-up as Kenton Miller was called up to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.
It did not take Fiddler long to make his presence known. Getting the opening shift start with linemates Joey Sides and Michael Neal, Fiddler scored his first goal in a Thunder uniform (second this season) just 18 seconds into the game as he cleaned up a juicy rebound in front of Eagles goaltender Jacob DeSerres to give Wichita a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles would square the game at 1, as Trent Daavettila scored his first goal of the season at 12:42 of the period, capitalizing on a Thunder turnover in the slot in front of David Shantz.
Another newcomer to the Thunder lineup, Peter Sakaris, assisted on Wichita’s second goal of the period as Ian Lowe deposited a slick pass from Sakaris to give the Thunder a 2-1 lead. The goal came on the power play, one of three Wichita had during the period.
“That was a big boost for us. We’ve kinda struggled on the special teams early, so we worked on that, made a couple changes this week,” Martell said.
Heading into the game, the team’s power play ranked 26th in the league with a 4.8 percent efficiency and had not converted in their last 15 man-advantage situations.
“It was nice to see a play work. Great pass in the corner and Lowesy buried it,” Martell said.
“It doesn’t matter who’s running the power play,” McClelland said. “At the end of the day, it’s on my shoulders. But (player-assistant RG Flath) did a great job all week with the guys, and spent a lot of time on it, and it paid off tonight.”
“I actually couldn’t see the goalie,” said Martell when describing his goal. “I know Sidesy (Joey Sides) had the puck there on the wall, made a good bounce pass up the boards. I just made sure I got it by the guy’s shin pads and it happened to sneak in there.”
The Thunder continued to get contributions from their blueliners in the second period, as Dalton Reum wired one over the blocker of DeSerres to expand the Thunder lead to 4-1. Immediately after the goal, DeSerres complained vehemently to the referee that he was interfered with, a sign that the Eagles were becoming frustrated.
As the game continued, the frustrations continued to mount. The game’s final 20-plus minutes featured eight fighting majors and a pair of game misconducts.
On the night, Thunder defensemen combined to score three points and two goals on the night. Sakaris and Mason Baptista led all scorers with two points each.
The same two teams will square off again this afternoon at 1:05pm at INTRUST Bank Arena.