WICHITA, KS – Playing their first game in eight days, the Wichita Thunder hit the ice against the Utah Grizzlies, looking to shake off the rust from playing just four games in the season’s first 20 days. Utah entered the game coming off a 5-3 loss to the Tulsa Oilers on Wednesday night.
Wichita did not waste any time getting things going. Using their speed and physicality to bribe Utah into taking several unnecessary penalties during the frame.
“I liked out first period,” said head coach Malcolm Cameron.
After trading penalties, Alexis Loiseau fired a one-timer past Grizzlies goaltender Kevin Boyle in the waning moments of a power play with 39 seconds left in the first period to make it 1-0.
“I did not like our second period. I thought we got a little too cocky,” Cameron said. “We started making soft plays and we weren’t nearly as urgent as we needed to be.”
Despite scoring a pair of goals in the period, Wichita was lucky to escape the period leading 3-2. Utah did a good job of getting into Drew Owsley‘s kitchen and maintain possession of the puck for long stretches of time. The Grizzlies scored twice in the frame, with Tim Daly and Austen Brassard getting the markers.
From there, Wichita pulled away.
“One of the things I try to drill into these guys is that you can’t be a one-dimensional hockey team. You can’t be just an off the rush team, can’t just score off the PP, you gotta be able to score different ways,” Cameron said. “If you can score from different ways, you’re a contender.”
In the third, the Thunder showed their versatility.
Gerrad Grant crashed the net and put home a Blake Tatchell shot to give Wichita a two-goal lead 14 seconds into the final frame. It is Grant’s first goal as a professional.
Almost six minutes later, Mitch Holmberg put home a nice cross-slot pass from Tatchell to balloon the lead to 5-2. Six more minutes later, Alexis Vanier scored his first as a pro, putting a one-time shot over Boyle’s shoulder to give the Thunder a 6-2 lead.
Owsley made the lead stand, making four highlight-reel saves on several Grizzlies forwards in the dying minutes of the game.
“I thought they worked harder than us…loose pucks, wall battles, net front battles,” said Grizzlies head coach Tim Branham. “We gotta put forth a better effort.”
Utah suffers their second straight loss and have given up 11 goals in those defeats. Meanwhile, Wichita is now riding a four-game winning streak, something that last happened during the 2014-15 season and improve to 4-1-0 on the season.
The same two teams will play tomorrow night at 7:05 pm at INTRUST Bank Arena.
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