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Rolling Thunder: Let the Good Times Roll

Last week, the Thunder completed their season-high five-game homestand and kept the momentum rolling into the month of December

Photo Courtesy: Ed Bailey/Wichita Thunder

Rolling Thunder: Let the Good Times Roll

WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome back to Rolling Thunder, our look back at the week-that-was and what lies ahead for the Wichita Thunder, powered by Pure Performance! Last week, the Thunder completed their season-high five-game homestand and kept the momentum rolling into the month of December.

The Past Week:

Four games against Rapid City & Tulsa (3-0-1-0, 7 of 8 possible points earned)

  • Wednesday, November 24 vs. Rapid City – For two teams still trying to find an identity, it is clear each side works extremely hard. However, there were spurts in the game where Rapid City outworked Wichita, especially in the first ten or so minutes of the second period. Former Thunder forward Logan Nelson broke the ice at 11:51 of the second, firing a backhand wrister by Thunder netminder Evan Buitenhuis to give Rapid City a 1-0 lead. That seemed to wake Wichita up a little bit, who controlled much of the play in the final eight minutes of the period. Playing in his 100th pro game, Jay Dickman scored on a tremendous individual effort at 15:43 of the period to tie things at 1-1. Capitalizing on a soft holding call in overtime, Tristan Thompson ripped the game-winner off a set play 2:28 into overtime to give the Rush a 2-1 win.
  • Friday, November 26 vs. Tulsa – Looking to avenge their overtime loss Wednesday night, the Thunder got off to a good start Friday night. It was a Tim Soderlund goal 1:43 into the contest that sent more than 12-hundred bears of all shapes, colors, and sizes to the ice of INTRUST Bank Arena. After a six-minute delay to clean the ice, the momentum seemed to switch to the Oilers’ side, as they controlled the action for a majority of the period, thanks to three Wichita penalties, all of which the Thunder killed off. The Oilers’ inability to score on the man-advantage was a huge early boost for the Thunder, who escaped the opening period with a 1-0 lead. About six minutes into the second, Dean Stewart was left all alone in front of the Oilers’ net, where he beat Daniel Mannella and scored his second goal of the year to double the Thunder lead. Toward the end of the period, the Oilers would get into some penalty trouble. On the ensuing power play early in the third period, Matteo Gennaro scored his second power-play goal in as many games against the Oilers to expand the Thunder lead to 3-0. Wichita continued to press for the fourth goal, but the Oilers defense, penalty kill, and goaltending stood tall. The momentum led to the Oilers getting a late goal by Dylan Sadowy with about five minutes left, but the Oilers would get no closer, losing 3-1.
  • Saturday, November 27 vs. Rapid City – Wichita and Rapid City played a high-scoring affair on Saturday night, with the Thunder holding off the Rush, 6-4.  Logan Fredericks recorded his first ECHL goal that ended up being the game-winner, and Brayden Watts tucking in an empty-netter to seal the game with 19 seconds remaining.
  • Sunday, November 28 vs. Rapid City – Wichita battled back from a two-goal deficit and pulled out a 3-2 shootout win over Rapid City. Tim Soderlund and Peter Crinella scored goals in regulation and the shootout, while Jake Theut made 41 saves to earn his first victory in a Thunder uniform.

The Pros:

  • The power play made strides last week, going 3-14 (21.4% efficiency) and now have goals in five of their last eight games. Through 15 games, the Thunder have a power play efficiency of 19.6% and a penalty kill rate of 87.3%.
    • Combining those two gives you a special team’s efficiency of 106.9%, which puts the Thunder specialty teams among the best in the ECHL. For greater context, teams who are over 105% in this category generally make the playoffs.
  • Wichita finished the month of games outscoring their opponents 15-5 in third periods. The Thunder have +5 goal differentials in both the first and third periods of games
  • Carter Johnson is putting together a very solid rookie season, centering a line with Dickman and Crinella. He enters the month of December tied for ninth among league rookies with 12 points
  • Dickman & Gennaro have cracked the top-20 of league scoring. Dickman enters the week with 16 points, while Gennaro has 15
  • Speaking of Gennaro, nine of those 15 points have come on the power play. Those nine points lead the league in that category.

The Cons:

  • Even with the third line chipping in on Saturday night’s game-winning goal, it is still apparent this is a two-line team offensively. This will have to change for the Thunder to have sustained success
  • The Rush exposed some details in the Thunder’s penalty kill over the weekend that will have to be tightened up
  • Wichita defensively has to get back to doing a better job of limiting shots for the opposition

The Stats:

  • Division/Conference Rank: 3rd in Mountain/5th in Western Conference
  • Goals: Crinella – 8
  • Assists: Dickman – 11
  • Points: Dickman – 15
  • Plus/Minus: Carter Johnson +8
  • PIMs: Sean Allen – 52 (4 fights)
  • Rookie Scoring Leader: C. Johnson – 12 pts (5G, 7A)
  • Goalies:
    • Evan Buitenhuis: 15GP, 8-5-1-0, 2.34 GAA, .930 sv%, 1 SO
    • Jake Theut: 2GP, 1-1-0-0, 2.42 GAA, .923 sv%

Boots’ Start Streak:

There is absolutely no doubt the MVP for the first seven weeks of this ECHL season has to be Evan Buitenhuis. He is first in minutes played (846), second in wins (8), and first in saves (436). Having started every game this season for the Thunder, I was wondering what the team record for consecutive starts to open a season was?

The answer: 15. That was the number of consecutive starts goaltender Bobby Desjardins made in a period from December 31, 1992 to January 29, 1993. During that span, “Bobby D” went 8-6-1 for the Thunder and helped the team break the .500 mark that season.

The modern-day ECHL mark for consecutive starts goes to future ECHL Hall of Famer Joel Martin of the Kalamazoo Wings, who started 15 straight games to start the 2006-07 season. It’s not clear if there is a longer streak prior to that, since the league did not keep records on this particular stat up to that point, and thus, it is not a league record.

Buitenhuis tied the Thunder team record, appearing in 3:07 of Sunday’s contest. His next start, likely on Wednesday, would break the team record. One would think he will also get the start on Sunday in Tulsa and next Thursday night against Allen, which would give him at least 18 straight appearances.

Last week, I called the prospects of him breaking the team record a “warning track shot.” Well, the wind turned just enough to make it a home run.

The Month that Was:

The month of November produced one hell of a rally for the Thunder. With injuries mounting and a tough loss to Wheeling on the night before Halloween, it looked like the season would take an early nosedive into a position that would have been precarious to dig out of. But the character and mettle of the team showed through, and they started clicking offensively, which led to a record of 8-2-1-0 in the month of November, 6-0-1-0 on home-ice.

Breaking Down the December Sked:

  • Wichita plays 13 games this month with four of them inside INTRUST Bank Arena
  • Play seven games in ten days from December 9-19
  • Will finish the season series with the Utah Grizzlies with a four-game set December 15-19
  • Play Allen four times, Tulsa three times, and Kansas City once

The Coming Week:

  • Wichita plays the Iowa Heartlanders for the first time ever Wednesday night
  • After three days off, the Thunder heads to Tulsa to play the Oilers Sunday afternoon

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    Matthew Harding is the Managing Editor for Field Pass Hockey, covers the ECHL and the Wichita Thunder. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHThunder.

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