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Rolling Thunder: Stormin’ Toward the Playoffs

Photo Courtesy: David Rainey/Kansas City Mavericks

Rolling Thunder: Stormin’ Toward the Playoffs

WICHITA, Kan. – The Wichita Thunder began the seven-week push to the Kelly Cup Playoffs with four games last week. It was a successful week for the team, as they gained seven of a possible eight points in the standings.

The Past Week:

One game vs. Allen (1-0-0-0; 2 of 2 possible points gained):

  • Tuesday, April 20, 2021 – Getting his second start in as many games, Hayden Lavigne was rock solid in net, turning aside 30 of 31 Allen shots as the Thunder got a 4-1 win at the Allen Event Center. The power-play clicked for two goals, with Matteo Gennaro & Spencer Dorowicz each getting two-point games.

Three games vs. Kansas City (2-0-1-0; 5 of 6 possible points gained)

  • Thursday, April 22, 2021 – The Thunder scored nearly every way possible, en route to a 6-1 win over Kansas City. They registered two shorthanded goals, a power-play goal, and three even-strength markers. Gennaro, Peter Crinella, and Stephen Johnson each had two points and Evan Buitenhuis claimed his eighth win of the year, stopping 24 shots.
  • Friday, April 23, 2021 – After spotting the Mavericks four goals in the first and going into the second intermission down 6-3, the Thunder charged back with three goals in the third to force overtime. Gennaro scored the overtime winner and added an assist. Jay Dickman, Stephen Johnson, Dean Stewart, Alex Peters, and Spencer Dorowicz each had two points and Buitenhuis claimed the win in relief with 26 saves.
  • Saturday, April 24, 2021 – Charlie Combs and Dean Stewart had goals for the Thunder in regulation, while Hayden Lavigne suffered the overtime loss, stopping 29 shots, as the Thunder fell to the Mavericks in overtime, 3-2.

Standings Check:

The Thunder enters the week in a tie with Fort Wayne at the top of the Western Conference, with a “magic” number to clinch a playoff berth at 18. This reminder, magic numbers will be calculated differently this year, due to standings being based on points percentage.

Here is where everyone else stacks up heading into play this week:

 

The Pros:

There are a lot of stats coming your way in this section, but the most important thing to note here is while it has seemed like a foregone conclusion for a bit, with their overtime loss Saturday night, the Thunder have clinched a winning record this season. That snaps a two-season streak of below .500 finishes.

Now for the statistical overload:

  • Anthony Beauregard is now the team’s ECHL leader in assists with 43 and counting.
  • Beauregard’s 62 points are currently just eight points behind Danick Gauthier for the ECHL high-water mark in points for a Thunder forward (Gauthier finished with 70 points – 30G, 40A – in 2014-15)
  • Jay Dickman is second in rookie scoring with 37 points, tied for second in goals with 14, third with 24 assists
  • Wichita is two wins away from eclipsing their ECHL-high in wins (34 in 2017-18) and are five points from eclipsing their previous ECHL-high in points (76 in 2017-18).
    • The last combined 40-win and 80+ point season for the Thunder came back in 2011-12 when they won 44 games (a franchise record) and had 91 points (also a franchise record).
  • Wichita outscores the opposition 115-87 (+28 goal differential) in games final 40 minutes
  • Wichita is 23-4-1-0 when scoring first
  • In the most telling stat regarding Beauregard’s MVP candidacy, the Thunder are 29-6-4 when he registers a point; 4-9-2 when he does not get on the scoresheet

The Cons:

It’s hard to find many faults in the Thunder’s game right now. The once struggling power play has started to generate offense, going 7-25 in the last five games.

The Stats:

  • Goals: Beauregard & Gennaro – 19 each
  • Assists: Beauregard – 43
  • Points: Beauregard – 62 (league-leader by eight points over Orlando’s Aaron Luchuk)
  • Plus/Minus: Beauregard +21
  • Rookie scoring: Jay Dickman – 37 pts (14G, 23A, +20; 14 goals are tied for 2nd among league rookies, 23 assists are second-most, 37 points are second, +20 rating leads all rookies)
  • Goalies:
    • Evan Buitenhuis: 8-3-0-0, 2.15 goals against average, .939 save percentage, 2 shutouts in a Thunder uniform
    • Hayden Lavigne: 4-1-1-0, 2.48 goals against average, .923 save percentage

Thunder Players in the AHL:

Currently, there are no players on an NHL/AHL contract on the Thunder roster. We’re dedicating this space to players who played here this year and are currently up in the American Hockey League. We’ll have their current AHL statline and, in parenthesis, their stats with the Thunder this season:

  1. *Gordie Green – TOR – 2 GP with Marlies, no points, -2 (5G, 8A, 13 pts, and +3 in 12 games with Wichita)
  2. *Jeremy McKenna – TOR – 15 GP, 3G, 4A with Marlies this season (4G, 7A, 11 pts, and +4 in 13 games with Wichita)
  3. *Bobby McMann – TOR – 8 GP, no points, -6 (5G, 11A, 16 pts, and +13 in 15 games with Wichita)
  4. *Noel Hoefenmayer – TOR – 10 GP, no goals, two assists, -2 (2G, 5A, 7 pts, and -2 in 16 games with Wichita)
  5. Vincent Desharnais – BAK – 29GP, no goals, seven assists, +5 (0G, 4A, 4 pts, and +5 in 6 games with Wichita)

* => Toronto has not played since April 10 (COVID protocol)

The Coming Week

Finishing Off the Grizzlies:

In a season series that has turned into a physical battle filled with saltiness, the Thunder and Grizzlies will play one more time tonight inside INTRUST Bank Arena. Wichita has a 6-2-0-0 mark against Utah this season, with two wins coming at Maverik Center. Each of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, with Wichita prevailing in three of the four contests.

Anthony Beauregard, Matteo Gennaro, and Beau Starrett lead the way offensively for Wichita. For Utah, their team leader offensively, Matthew Boucher, leads the club with eight points against Wichita.

Thunder/Americans Tangle in Battle for Playoff Positioning:

It’s been a long time since the Thunder and Americans played for anything of consequence, but this weekend feels like it could go a long way in determining who will have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Thunder and Americans are evenly matched, with Wichita winning four of the seven matchups this season. After this weekend’s three-game set, the Thunder and Americans will meet one more time on the penultimate night of the regular season.

Can’t Make it to the Arena?

Tonight’s, Friday’s, and Saturday’s games are all scheduled for 7:05 pm puck drops. The Sin Bin Pregame Show gets tonight’s action started at 6:25 pm tonight, with the show starting at 6:35 pm Friday and Saturday nights.

Sunday’s game is scheduled for a 2:05 pm puck drop, with the pregame show starting at 1:35 pm.

You can listen to every Wichita Thunder game this season on The Sin Bin app.

Around the ECHL This Week:

  • South Carolina looks to get back into playoff positioning as they take on the Orlando Solar Bears
  • Jacksonville & Greenville, the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference, play a three-game set
  • Utah continues their road trip in Tulsa as the race for fourth in the West continues to percolate
  • Rapid City hosts Kansas City for a three-game set

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 2021 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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