WICHITA, KS – It has been quite a start to the 2017-18 campaign for the Wichita Thunder. The team has won 10 of their first 12 games, have collected points in five-straight contests and are heading into a big weekend set with the Allen Americans.

Like most teams at this level, some questions that existed heading into the season have been answered, others have not, and there are new storylines emerging every day.

Now, let’s see if I can scrape together some answers that make it seem like I know what I’m talking about and give away some tickets to a Wichita Thunder game this weekend!

Q: What do you think the key points are that have led to the Thunder’s hot 10-1 start and are they sustainable down the stretch? -@Vjuente on Twitter

In a short answer, the 10-1-1-0 start is a reflection of a total team effort so far.

The Thunder has received balanced scoring throughout their lineup; players like Zach O’BrienKyle PlatzerMark MacMillanJeremy Beaudry, plus rookies Lane Bauer and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin. Those six have combined for 48 points so far this season (18G, 30A).

With O’Brien and Platzer in Bakersfield, this will give players like Shaq Merasty and Steven Iacobellis a chance to work into the line up to show what they can do offensively.

On the blueline, the Thunder have been stingy defensively, allowing 33.5 shots per game. Also, the chances that have been given up have been stopped by the goaltending of Shane Starrett Joel Rumpel. When you put that together, it gives means that the Thunder have allowed 2.25 goals per game this season, which is tops in the ECHL.

With the acquisition of Ralph Cuddemi Friday and with Dana Tyrell getting close to returning, the Thunder appears to be one of the deepest teams in the league, especially when you consider that Platzer and O’Brien could be back in Wichita at some point this season.

As long as there the dedication to the “team-first” mentality continues with this hockey club; I think the sky is the limit for the Thunder this season.

Q: Will call-ups start to hurt the team like last year or does Malcolm (Cameron) have it under control? -@Gill_Havin on Twitter

The thing Thunder fans should do quickly is take everything you thought you knew about the affiliation last year and throw it away. Let’s just call it for what it was, a lousy affiliation that was all-take-and-no-give. It is an entirely different story this year.

Let’s look at how the call-ups have broken down between Wichita and Bakersfield this year:

DATE: WICHITA GETS: BAKERSFIELD GETS:
Camp Kyle Platzer/Zach O’Brien/Shane Starrett N/A
Oct 19 N/A Jamie Doornbosch
Nov 1 Greg Chase/Evan Polei/Jamie Doornbosch (ret) N/A
Nov 7 N/A Kyle Platzer
Nov 16 Chad Butcher Zach O’Brien

The Thunder are +4 in players sent to them versus those called up. It also doesn’t take into account Tyrell and Bauer, who were signed by Wichita after performing well in Bakersfield camp.

The partnership between Edmonton/Bakersfield/Wichita is operating like any normal affiliation should, with regular visits from the goaltending/developmental coach, as well as Oilers Assistant GM Bill Scott. The fact that Edmonton can have four of it’s contracted players here in Wichita is a definite help to the team right now.

If the Thunder continue to succeed, however, it will only be a matter of time before AHL clubs start circling and looking at who is excelling on the team and on ECHL contracts. If that comes to pass, then I think we will begin to see Cameron’s extensive recruiting contacts come to bear.

Q: Last year, goalkeeping was a problem. Was it a major point of emphasis this offseason?

Without a doubt, goaltending was a major focus of the offseason for Malcolm CameronDrew Owsley did a tremendous job in taking on a bulk of the starts for a large part of the season on a bad team after the 7-3 start.

When compared to Scott Greenham, Rumpel is a definite upgrade. Looking at the bodies of work, Greenham has a career 43-61-11 record, a 3.36 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. On the other side, Rumpel entered the season with a career ECHL record of 28-15-5, 2.48 goals against average; a .912 save percentage and two Kelly Cup Championships (Allen Americans).

And everyone across the league knows the kind of start Starrett is off to.

There is little doubt the goaltending tandem of Jamie Vandespyker and Jason Flick was the best in Thunder history, but they could be usurped if the Rumpel/Starrett show continues.

In 2004-05, Flick/Vandespyker went 39-17-3, allowed 156 goals, had a goals against average of 2.58 and a save percentage of .906 to go with three shutouts. Currently, Rumpel and Starrett have a combined record of 10-1-1-0, allowed just 27 goals, have a goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .933.

Q: Does a “player/coach” like (Guillaume) Lepine count against the roster & veteran count the same way as a regular player? Can he put on a suit and stand behind the bench without being on the roster? -@PerryRT on Twitter

In answer to your first question, yes, Guillaume Lepine counts against the team’s veteran & roster limit.

For the answer to your second question, I went to Dan Petrino who is the Manager of Hockey Administration for the ECHL. This was his response:

“The player/assistant is really more of a ceremonial title than anything.  The player/assistant counts against the roster the same as anyone else and there are no additional compensation or benefits.  It is in place so that veteran players who are looking to get into coaching can have the title of player/assistant.  The idea is also for teams who are utilizing the player/assistant to give that player more coaching and leadership responsibilities as well to help prepare him for coaching.”

Before I close the mailbag for this month, congrats to Matthew Will who won the tickets to a game against the Allen Americans this weekend!

Thanks for all the questions and for taking the time to read the article & visit our website. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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