The Wichita Thunder rode a 3/5 power play to a 7-4 win against the Rapid City Rush on Sunday afternoon in their final head-to-head meeting of the season. The Thunder are now 4 points back of the Rush for the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division, with the Rush still holding five games in hand against Wichita with 24 games remaining in the season.
Despite suffocating offensive pressure by the Rush to start the game, it was the Thunder that left with a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. Stefan Fournier scored in back-to-back games against the Rush when he collected the puck on the blue line, and skated in virtually uncontested towards the Rush net. Fournier beat Rush net-minder Merrick Madsen to give the Thunder an early 1-0 lead with 4:18 left in the first period (Spencer Dorowicz and Vincent Desharnais assisted). Peter Crinella doubled Wichita’s lead with 6 seconds left on their first power play of the game, deflecting an Ostap Safin slot shot past a screened Madsen to make it a 2-0 lead (Safin and Patrik Parkkonen assisted).
For a second game in a row, Tanner Karty provided the Rush with their first goal of the contest, striking once again in the second period. With 6:34 gone by in the second, Darian Romanko, from behind the net, hit Karty with an east-west pass on the short side. Karty settled the puck and rifled it over the shoulder of Thunder goalie Dylan Wells, cutting the Rush deficit to 2-1 (Romanko and Chris Leibinger assisted). Towards the end of the period, on another power play, Garrett Schmitz knocked in a rebound in close range of the net to re-establish the Thunder’s two-goal lead, making it 3-1 with 1:28 left in the second period (Dorowicz and Jason Salvaggio assisted).
Wichita struck within the first minute of the third period, and, despite a Rush rally late, never looked back. Peter Crinella earned his second of the game, banking in a rebound on an odd-man break to make it a 4-1 Thunder lead (Nolan Vesey had the lone assist). Stephane Legault answered moments later on a zone entry sequence to cut the deficit back to a pair. With 4:55 gone by in the third, Peter Quenneville entered the zone and dished to Chris Leibinger on the far wall. Leibinger surveyed his options, and found Legault crashing to the back door. He hit Legault, who pocketed his shot past Wells to make it a 4-2 Thunder advantage (Leibinger and Quenneville assisted). However, Wichita went back to the power play, and Garrett Schmitz rifled another shot past Madsen’s glove to extend the Wichita lead to 5-2 with 10:34 left in regulation (Chris Crane and Jason Salvaggio assisted). The Rush went to a power play of their own, hoping to inch closer to the Thunder, but surrendered a shorthanded goal. After the puck was turned over on the near wall of the Wichita zone, Fabrizio Ricci and Patrik Parkkonen went on a two-on-none break into the Rush end. Ricci’s initial shot was stopped by Madsen, but Parkkonen banked in the rebound, making it 6-2 with 8:17 left in the game (Ricci and Vincent Desharnais assisted). Parkkonen struck again with a five-hole shot past Madsen, cleaning up a Stefan Fournier rebound between the hashmarks to give Wichita a 7-2 lead with 4:41 remaining in the game (Fournier and Ricci assisted). Peter Quenneville softened the blow within the last two minutes of the game, winning a race to the puck and finishing with a flip over Wells’ glove to cut the lead to 7-3, then was followed by Keeghan Howdeshell’s power play goal with 4.7 seconds remaining in the game to bring the contest to its final score of 7-4.
Merrick Madsen, starting and playing for the first time since November 16th at Kansas City, suffered the loss, stopping 23 of 30 shots (1-3-0-0).
The Rush now return home for a three-game series against the ECHL’s 1st Place Allen Americans, beginning with the team’s third annual “School Day Game” on Wednesday, February 12th. Puck drop for the contest, also featuring “Marvel Super Hero Day” and super hero specialty jerseys, is slated for 10:35am MDT at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena.
Tickets for all remaining Rush games are on sale now! Visit www.rapidcityrush.com to purchase yours today!