WICHITA, Kan. – For first-year head coach Bruce Ramsay and the Wichita Thunder, the roster shapes up to be a youth-oriented team. Last year, the Thunder finished the season in the top spot outside the playoffs in the Mountain Division, but the margin was not close enough. It was too little, too late last season. But with a new coach, a new roster and new leadership, the expectations for young players to perform are higher than ever.
Led by returners Stefan Fournier and Steven Iacobellis (who is in Wichita on a Bakersfield Condors contract), the success of these two will likely prove vital in the development of young players.
The loss of solid defenseman Keoni Texeira and former captain Dyson Stevenson will likely hurt the Thunder, but not end them.
Nuts and Bolts:
Record: 29-31-9-3 — 70 pts
Division/Conference Finish: 5th in Mountain/11th in Western
Playoff Finish: Did not qualify
Record vs. Division: 27-25-8-2
Record vs. Conference: 29-31-9-3
Goals For Per Game: (3.11, 18th)
Goals Against Per Game: (3.48, 23rd)
Power Play: 64/265, 24.2% — 1st in ECHL
Penalty Kill: 260/321, 81% — 20th in ECHL
- New coach – as always, a new coach brings new expectations. The success of Wichita this year will likely reflect on him
- Youth – A young team means ‘hopeful’ development. While they should not be dependent on veterans, the veteran presence will likely influence the youth’s play greatly
- Goalie rotation – With the skill and improvement of goaltenders Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner last season, the signing of Mitch Gillam was surprising yet enjoyable for Thunder faithful. Gillam will assist in getting the most out of games that Wells and Skinner do not play in.
“We brought in alot of new players so obviously it takes alot of time to gel and get together,” Ramsay said. “But we have a great group… It will be exciting to get them on the ice and get in front of alot of fans.” — Thunder head coach Bruce Ramsay
- Stefan Fournier – Joining the team as a player/assistant coach, the play of Fournier is vital in a successful season.
- Ostap Safin – Safin is an exciting Edmonton contracted forward should give life to whatever line he joins. His speed and control could make him a valuable asset in the ECHL.
- Garrett Schmitz – Schmitz is likely the most exciting young player for Wichita this year. His 33-point (10g, 23a) season last year for the SPHL’s Birmingham Bulls was exemplary for a defenseman.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
- Keoni Texeira – This loss hurts. Texeira had worked his way to a powerplay quarterback by the end of the season.
- Tyler Elbrecht – The defensive play of two or three defensemen for Wichita last season was the reason for every successful game. Elbrecht was the leader of that movement.
- Ralph Cuddemi – The fourth-highest scoring powerplay man of the season last year was traded to Reading just weeks ago.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
The Wichita Thunder will indeed miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Simply put, the youth and inexperience of the Thunder are not close enough to the chemistry and talent Allen, Kansas City, Utah, Tulsa, and Idaho all hold.