WICHITA, Kan. – After a week full of roster news for the Wichita Thunder and the conclusion of their 14-game winless skid, perhaps the best present was unwrapped and announced on Monday when the team announced the return of fan-favorite Stefan Fournier.
Fournier returns to Wichita after leaving the team in September to play for the Michalovce Dukla HC team in Slovakia. There, he played in 15 games, registered two points (both goals), and compiled 118 penalty minutes. He returns to Wichita and his role as the team’s player/assistant coach.
“Stefan will bring us veteran leadership to our forward group,” Thunder head coach Bruce Ramsay said. “He is a fan favorite and will add a scoring punch and energy to our lineup.”
The 2020-21 season was productive for the 29-year-old, who notched a new career-high in assists (20) and tied his career-high in points, set in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season (42 points). He also appeared in his first professional playoff game last season, playing in game one of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Fort Wayne Komets, but failed to get on the scoresheet. He missed the rest of the series with an upper-body injury.
The previous three-plus seasons in Wichita have been the most offensively productive of Fournier’s career. He’s lit the lamp 63 times and served up 50 assists, totaling 113 points in 145 games in a Thunder uniform. Fournier’s 113 points are the most for any Thunder player in the ECHL era.
Off the ice, Fournier was becoming a pretty good recruiter, using his friendships with Anthony Beauregard and Mathieu Gagnon to lure them both Wichita last season. In the latter stages of the campaign, he helped bring former NHL & AHL forward Ryan White to the team. There is no doubt Fournier’s developing acumen in this area will be relied upon the rest of this season.
In the second transaction of the day, the Thunder announced the signing of rookie forward Joe Manchurek. The 25-year-old Manchurek signs with the Thunder after playing 49 games spread out over four seasons in the USports league, where he piled up 63 points (23G, 40A).
“He was a top scorer at the University of Toronto, where he played with David Thomson,” Ramsay said. “He will bring size, scoring and grit to the roster, along with some much-needed depth.”
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Manchurek’s best season in college came in the pandemic-shortened season of 2019-20. He recorded 14 goals and 22 assists (36 points) in 27 games, earning him USports second-team honors.
Prior to attending college, he played five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals, where he served in leadership roles in his final two seasons. In 239 games, he piled up 112 points (48G, 64A) and won a Memorial Cup with the Generals in 2014-15.
In the final move, the team announced goaltender Olivier Rodrigue has been recalled from his loan by Edmonton, and he will be joining the Bakersfield Condors. In two appearances in a Thunder uniform, the second-year netminder went 1-1-0-0, with a 2.01 goals against average and a .949 save percentage. This past weekend, he allowed just four goals on 78 shots faced against the Kansas City Mavericks.
Today’s transactions cap off a busy eight-day period for the Thunder in the roster department. Tuesday, they announced the return of defenseman Jacob Graves. Wednesday, the team announced the signing of Thomson and the assignment of Rodrigue.
The Thunder wrap up their five-game set with the Kansas City Mavericks tomorrow night at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence. Faceoff is set for 7:05 pm. We’ll have the Field Pass Hockey Pregame Show, powered by Pure Performance, on the air at 6:40 pm on the Field Pass Hockey App!
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