WICHITA, Kan. – Heading into game two of their Mountain Division semifinal series with the Colorado Eagles, the Wichita Thunder needed to do everything right, including on special teams. In their game one loss to the Eagles, the Thunder allowed power-play and shorthanded goals to the Eagles.
Even with the loss, there were still some positives to build on for the Thunder heading into game two, including that they held the Eagles off the scoreboard at even-strength in game one.
Colorado didn’t give Wichita much time to build on the positives, however.
Game two got off to a rough start for Wichita when just 25 seconds into the contest, Joey Ratelle netted his first career playoff goal after Ryan Harrison forced a turnover right in front of Thunder netminder Shane Starrett.
In the middle stages of the period, Travis Brown capitalized on a beautiful feed from Cam Reid during a 3-on-2 rush. Reid skated the puck all the way in on Colorado netminder Joe Cannata and instead of shooting the puck, he passed it to Brown who wired a shot over the blocker of Cannata and tied the game at one.
Toward the end of the period, the physicality came to the forefront when Evan Polei slashed Brady Shaw, who was down on the ice. Gabriel Verpaelst came to Shaw’s defense and fought Polei, with it ending in a split decision. After the fight, the Thunder appeared to have the momentum, generating a couple of good scoring chances on Cannata, but the score remained tied after one period.
But much like game one, the middle stanza of game two belonged to the Colorado Eagles, but not before spotting the Thunder another goal. Dyson Stevenson potted his first of the playoffs off the rebound from Travis Brown shot. That gave Wichita a 2-1 lead.
Colorado would score the first of their four unanswered goals when Ryan Olsen got stuffed the puck by Starrett during a net-mouth scramble to tie the game at 2-2. The goal came during a power-play after Brown cross-checked Shaw into the end wall. Shaw was down for a moment or two but ended up going to the bench on his own accord.
Minutes later, Michael Joly, the league’s leading goal scorer during the regular-season, found the twine behind Starrett to give Colorado a 3-2 lead after two periods.
The Thunder had two power-play chances in the final period but were barely able to get anything set up in the offensive zone, let alone beat Cannata.
Colorado salted the game away when they created a turnover during a Thunder clearing attempt during a power-play and Julian Nantel put a shot by Starrett to give the Eagles a 4-2 lead. The Eagles capped off the scoring when Collin Bowman scored Colorado’s third power-play goal of the evening into the empty net.
Wichita went 0-6 on the power-play, while giving up three power-play goals to the Eagles.
Joe Cannata picks up the win, stopping 25 of 27 shots. Shane Starrett takes the loss, stopping 28 of 32 shots.
The Eagles now lead the series 2-0 and have won their last six game two’s dating back to the 2016 playoffs. When Colorado has a 2-0 lead in a series, they are 12-0 all-time. In addition, the Eagles’ have now defeated Wichita six straight times.
Game three of this Mountain Division Semifinal series is Wednesday night at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm MT/8:05 pm CT.