WICHITA, Kan. – To say Wichita and Allen have been locked in a tight battle all year is an understatement-and-a-half. Entering Tuesday’s game, Allen had a slight lead in goals, Wichita had a scant lead in shots, both teams had been stout on the power-play, and each side will contend they won more fights during the season series.
Round 12 of the prize fight would come Tuesday night at INTRUST Bank Arena.
After a scoreless first period, which saw both teams feel each other out and play very defensively, the Thunder cracked open the scoring at 4:24 of the second period, when Chad Butcher netted his tenth of the season off a feed from Ralph Cuddemi.
The one stat I hadn’t mentioned yet is that scoring first has not been a good omen in this series. In 11 previous games, the team whose scored first has lost five.
Almost five minutes later, Cuddemi potted his team-leading 31st of the season when he jumped on a rebound laying in front of Allen netminder Jake Paterson to make it 2-0 Wichita.
Shane Starrett carried a shutout into the third period, but the effort was stymied when Zach Pochiro scored on a broken play to cut the Thunder lead down to 2-1.
All night long, Wichita did a good job of dropping an extra man into the wall battles, supporting the puck carriers during the breakouts, and bailing out Starrett by not forcing him to make multiple tough saves. For the Thunder to have success against the Colorado Eagles this weekend, they will need to have a pair of efforts exactly like the one they got tonight.
With the win, the Thunder moves back into third place in the Mountain Division with 76 points. Wichita finishes the regular-season home record of 21-12-2-1 and improves to 34-28-6-2 on the season. Their magic number to clinch their first playoff berth in the ECHL and five years overall is down to three.
Wichita heads to Colorado for two final games against the Eagles this weekend.