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Rolling Thunder: Lots of Teachable Moments

Last week, the Thunder opened the 2021-22 home slate and closed out the month of October with games against the Utah Grizzlies and Wheeling Nailers

Photo Courtesy: Ed Bailey/Wichita Thunder

Rolling Thunder: Lots of Teachable Moments

WICHITA, Kan. – Welcome back to Rolling Thunder, our weekly look back at the week-that-was and what lies ahead for the Wichita Thunder. Last week, the Thunder opened the 2021-22 home slate and closed out the month of October with games against the Utah Grizzlies and Wheeling Nailers.

The Past Week:

Two games against Utah and Wheeling (0-2-0-0; 0 of 4 possible points gained)

  • Friday, October 29, 2021 – The home schedule got off to an inauspicious start with a listless performance against the Utah Grizzlies. Utah struck first with about 3:00 left in the first period, when Tyler Penner caught up to a loose puck and slid it under Evan Buitenhuis. Then, with a 29-second 5-on-3 in the early stages of the second period, the Thunder could barely get their power-play set up. With all the momentum on their side, the Grizzlies added another goal at 13:51 of the period, when Quinn Ryan crashed the far post and put home a rebound for his second of the season. Just 74 seconds into the final period, Andrew Neilson scored his first of the season, with a howitzer from the blueline. Grizzlies goaltender Trent Minor collected his second consecutive shutout, stopping 27 shots.
  • Saturday, October 30, 2021 – In a game that had it all, it was Wheeling who had the final laugh. The Thunder scored a season-high four goals in the first period and led 4-0 through the first 11 minutes of the contest. But from the 11-minute mark of the first to the end of the game, the Nailers outshot the Thunder 38-19 and outscored the Thunder 6-1. The game included a season-high three fights and a combined 71 penalty minutes. A 93-minute-long ice delay stopped the game, with 1:34 left in the second period.

The Pros:

  • After a poor performance Friday night, the core group for the Thunder came out and led the charge offensively for the first 11 minutes of the game Saturday night
  • Team toughness is something the Thunder will have no matter their record this season. After Stephen Johnson caught an elbow to the side of the head from Matt AlfaroBrayden Watts immediately dropped the mitts and fought Alfaro. A decisive win for the second-year Thunder forward, landing several heavy shots to Alfaro, before being dragged down to the ice.

The Cons:

  • Team toughness can have its downside, too. In an effort to spark his team Friday night, newly-minted team captain Alex Peters suffered a hand injury during his fight with Grizzlies forward Brandon Cutler. Head coach Bruce Ramsay says Peters will be out 4-6 weeks.
  • Friday night’s effort appeared to be an effort where everyone was trying to do too much, rather than staying within the framework of the game plan
  • Once the Thunder got out to a 4-0 lead Saturday night, it appeared they stopped playing. The momentum started to switch to the Nailers’ side Saturday night when Patrick Watling scored his second of the year – shorthanded – while the Nailers were killing Alfaro’s major penalty.
  • It looked like the Thunder had weathered the Nailers storm in the second period by scoring prior to the ice delay, but once they returned to play, the Thunder had no answer for the Nailers, allowing them to skate unabated into the zone, win 50/50 battles, and crash the net. The final 21:26 of the contest Saturday night was one of the most glaring examples-to-date of the lack of a veteran leader on the bench. Nobody was there to calm the team down and lead by example on the ice.
  • Wichita has allowed shorthanded goals in two of the last three games

Oh, and the Ice:

Before I get into this, I want to be abundantly clear, the ice situation Saturday night was not on the team. For the third time in as many years, faulty INTRUST Bank Arena ice has either postponed, canceled, or delayed a game. For one of the nicest arenas in minor league hockey, the ice in the arena has been among the worst in the ECHL year-over-year and is becoming a detriment. The ice had been installed earlier in the week and skated on for the first time last Friday morning. This is uncalled for. While ice delays in multi-use facilities like INTRUST Bank Arena are a real possibility, it behooves the arena, in a post-COVID world, to give its primary tenant the best possible ice to prevent future delays and lost revenue.

Full marks to both teams and the league for waiting the delay out, to give the fans a conclusion to the game. Finally, kudos to the fans for sticking it through.

The Stats:

  • Goals: Crinella – 4
  • Assists: Gennaro – 5
  • Points: Gennaro – 7
  • Plus/Minus: S. Johnson & Nick Minerva and Watts – +2 each
  • PIMs: Garrett Schmitz – 14 (2 fights)
  • Rookie Scoring Leader: Shewfelt – 2 pts (2G)
  • Goalies:
    • Evan Buitenhuis: 1-3-0-0, 3.53 GAA, .899 sv%, 1 SO

The Coming Week:

Big Red Machine Rolls into Town:

For the first time this season, the Allen Americans come to town on Friday night. The season series is tied at 1-1-0-0, with Allen defeating Wichita in their last meeting, 6-3 on Sunday, October 23. Seasoned AHL netminder Antoine Bibeau will make his Allen debut Friday night. In 194 AHL games, Bibeau has a goals against average of 2.72 and a .908 save percentage. He also has four NHL games to his credit (2.54 GAA, .907 save percentage).

ECHL’s “Battle of Alberta” Renews:

The Kansas City Mavericks make their way to town on Sunday afternoon for the first time this season. This is a new-look Mavericks squad, with long-time veterans Ryan OlsenRyan Harrison, and Jesse Mychan on the roster. Additionally, former Thunder player/coach Riley Weselowski will make his return to the Air Capital.

Can’t Make it to the Arena?

Friday night’s game is scheduled for a 7:05 pm puck drop. Get your game night started with The Field Pass Hockey Pregame Show, starting at 6:30 pm on the Field Pass Hockey app. Sunday afternoon’s game is a 4:05 pm puck drop, with the pregame show starting at 3:30 pm.

You can listen to every Wichita Thunder game this season on the Field Pass Hockey app.

Around the ECHL:

  • Newfoundland opens up their home schedule this weekend, taking on the Adirondack Thunder
  • Rapid City travels to Utah to take on the Grizzlies
  • Fort Wayne travels to Toledo on Sunday

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    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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