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Bennett, Smith Help Iowa Silence Thunder

CORALVILLE, IA – The red-hot Wichita Thunder rolled into Coralville, looking to extend their consecutive point streak to 12 straight games. However, Jake Smith and Kris Bennett had other ideas, as Bennett recorded four points and Smith three to lead the Iowa Heartlanders to a 7-3 victory. Two power-play goals helped Iowa take the lead for good. Dereck Baribeau made 20 saves to earn the victory. Jay Dickman had a goal and an assist for Wichita.

The Thunder had the better of the play in the first frame, but it would be the Heartlanders who entered the first intermission with the lead. With 1:44 left in the frame, Zach White left a drop pass at the blueline. Adrien Beraldo blasted a slapshot that looked like it deflected off a Thunder player and past Olivier Rodrigue for the fifth goal of the season for Beraldo.

Iowa dominated the second period, outshooting Wichita 18-8 in the frame. That helped them extend their lead to two when Ben Sokay scored 9:54 into the period. The Heartlanders stole the puck at their blueline, then headed the other way on an odd-man rush. Cole Stallard moved in looking to jam the puck past Rodrigue, but his shot was saved. However, no one cleared out Sokay, who jammed home the rebound for his eighth goal of the season.

The Heartlanders looked like they were in complete command of this game, but a high-sticking penalty to Bennett at 11:16 gave the Thunder a power-play, and they took advantage 37 seconds later. Cam Clarke fired a shot from the point that Dickman redirected by Iowa netminder Baribeau for his 17th goal of the season, cutting the deficit to one. Peter Crinella earned the second assist on the play, giving him points in all six games since he returned from Springfield (AHL).

The Thunder put the pressure on early in the third and tied the score 1:22 into the period. Dickman had the puck along the boards behind the net. He made a beautiful no-look pass to Carter Johnson, just below the right faceoff circle. Johnson knocked the puck with his skate onto his stick, then moved across the slot, getting Baribeau down before tucking the puck just inside the far post for his 14th goal of the year. Stefan Fournier earned the second assist on the goal, giving him a four-game point streak.

Iowa retook the lead, scoring on the power-play at 5:44. A beautiful play by Riese Zmolek set up the goal as he moved down toward the left faceoff circle, shifted direction toward the corner, then circled back toward the goal. Zmolek then moved the puck to Bennett, who fed it across to the backdoor to Kaid Oliver, who briefly lost control of the puck but then fired a wrist shot that beat Rodrigue to the glove for his 10th goal of the year.

Almost two minutes later, Iowa had a 5-on-3 power-play, and Jake Smith made them pay, scoring his 16th goal of the year. Ryan Kuffner moved the puck to Bennett high in the slot, quickly passing it to Smith at the left faceoff circle. Smith blasted the one-timer by the Thunder netminder to make it 4-2.

The Thunder were in some trouble, but a terrible turnover by Smith inside his zone helped put Wichita down by a goal. Smith had the puck near the half boards in his end, making a no-look pass into the slot, where Brendan van Riemsdyk intercepted the pass. He quickly lifted a wrist shot that beat a surprised Baribeau for his sixth goal of the year.

The Heartlanders extended their lead back to two when the Thunder turned the puck over in their end. Smith made the steal near the blueline, then fed the puck to Stallard along the boards. He took a wrist shot that beat Rodrigue to the glove side for his ninth goal of the year, giving Iowa a 5-3 lead.

With a little over a minute left in the game, Bennett sealed the victory with an empty-net tally to give Iowa a 6-3 lead. Luke Nogard closed out the scoring. With three seconds left, he stole the puck behind the net., wrapping it past Rodrigue for his sixth goal of the season. That made it 7-3, which would be final.

Bennett finished with two goals and two assists, and Smith had a goal and two assists for Iowa. Kuffner had two assists, and Stallard added a goal and an assist.

The victory was the fourth in a row for the Iowa Heartlanders (21-23-7). Iowa returns home to take on the Fort Wayne Komets on Friday. The puck drops at 7:00. The Wichita Thunder (22-22-7) saw their 11-game point streak come to an end. They travel to Toledo to take on the Walleye on Friday. The faceoff is scheduled for 6:15 Wichita time.

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    Robert Pannier covers the Iowa Wild for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHWild.

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