WICHITA, Kan. – With their backs against the wall, it was “all hands on deck” for the Wichita Thunder in game four of their Mountain Division Semifinal series against the Colorado Eagles Friday night.
While the Thunder are down in the series 3-0, Wichita has had leads in every game of the series, only to see them slip away. But on Friday, Wichita found a way to shut down the Eagles attack, at least for one night.
Before the contest, the Eagles took to Twitter in an effort to get their fanbase riled up for the game, showing a couple of photos of Joey Ratelle punching a Thunder player in game three on Wednesday night.
— Colorado Eagles (@ColoradoEagles) April 20, 2018
The move backfired and the Thunder made sure class was in session early and often Friday night.
The first lesson was taught to “Professor Rats” just two seconds into the contest when student Evan Polei squared off with Ratelle and delivered seven shots to the “Professor’s” face, not to mention several additional shots to the kidneys. Chalk that tilt up to the student. If you’re curious, the Ratelle wasn’t heard from much after that fight; he finished the game a -2 on the night.
From there, the lessons were taught on the scoreboard.
Ryan Van Stralen got things started at 7:08 of the first period with his first pro playoff goal. Wichita created a turnover at the Eagles line and Dyson Stevenson made a nifty pass to Van Stralen, who buried a one-timer past Joe Cannata. At 18:14, Polei made it 2-0 with his first pro playoff tally. Steven Iacobellis curled just inside the Colorado line, fired it across the zone and Polei found the net.
In the second, Stevenson tipped home a shot from Samuel Thibault at 2:40 to increase the lead to 3-0. Mark MacMillan made it 4-0 at 6:34 when he fired a shot from the right face-off circle that appeared to be going to Polei. Instead, the puck went through Cannata’s five-hole for his first of the postseason. Cannata would be lifted and Lukas Hafner would enter the contest.
Etienne Boutet got into the act early in the third to make it 5-0. He came out of the penalty box, caught a lead pass from Brayden Low and beat Hafner for his first of the playoffs at 3:03. Late in the third, Travis Brown closed the scoring as he caught a pass from MacMillan across the slot and put it past Hafner for the sixth marker of the night.
Stevenson led the way offensively with three points, while MacMillan and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin each had two.
Shane Starrett made 29 stops on Friday night en route to his first professional playoff win & shutout.
Wichita snaps Colorado’s 11-game postseason winning streak and beats the Eagles for the first time in the last seven meetings dating back to the regular season. The Thunder earn their second postseason shutout against Colorado all-time and the first since the 2004-05 playoffs. It was also the most goals Wichita has scored against the Eagles during a playoff series.
Game five is tonight at the Budweiser Events Center. Faceoff is set for 8:05 pm CT/7:05 pm MT.