WICHITA, Kan. – Following a season where Wichita found themselves atop the league at one point then near the bottom towards the end, the Thunder are set to begin their 2020-21 slate tonight. Bruce Ramsay built a strong team before the 2019-20 campaign, despite its abrupt ending.
While Wichita isn’t set to play a home game until the first of the year, hockey still begins this evening against a familiar opponent, the Tulsa Oilers.
Initial Schedule (Home Games in BOLD, all times local, and all games on The Sin Bin app):
Friday, December 11, 2020 @ Tulsa Oilers at 7:05 pm
Saturday, December 26, 2020 @ Kansas City Mavericks at 7:05 pm
Thursday, December 31, 2020 @ Allen Americans at 6:05 pm
Friday, January 1, 2021 vs. ALLEN AMERICANS at 7:05 pm
Saturday, January 2, 2021 vs. ALLEN AMERICANS at 7:05 pm
Tuesday, January 5, 2021 @ Kansas City Mavericks at 7:05 pm
Friday, January 8, 2021 vs. KANSAS CITY MAVERICKS at 7:05 pm
Saturday, January 9, 2021 vs. KANSAS CITY MAVERICKS at 7:05 pm
Sunday, January 10, 2021 vs. KANSAS CITY MAVERICKS at 4:05 pm
Head Coach: Bruce Ramsay, Second Season with Thunder (24-30-8), Third season in ECHL (61-59-14 overall)
Captain: Not Yet Disclosed
Last Season: Wichita finished the partial season with a 24-30-8 record (56 pts), sixth in the Mountain Division and 10th in the Western Conference
2019-20 Season Summary: The Thunder began the 2019-20 season with a new head coach, Bruce Ramsay. Wichita got off to a mediocre start last season before having a tremendous November where, at one point, they led the ECHL. The losses of Chris Crane and Jack Combs during the season were normal for ECHL teams but detrimental to the Thunder’s success. By the end of February, not long before the season was halted, Wichita sat near the bottom of the league standings they had once led. The chances of a playoff appearance were near impossible before the season was called. Wichita did have the positive play of Beau Starrett, Fabrizio Ricci, Peter Crinella, Spencer Dorowicz, and Mitch Gillam to lean on when looking back on the year.
Hot or Not?
The obviously downgrades on offense are the lack of scorers like Combs and Crane on this year’s roster. Also, the apparent loss of Ricci is a large one. Ricci was a powerhouse on the penalty kill, usually picking up two or three blocked shots each kill. The return of Gillam is huge for Wichita as he was unreal at some points of last season. The return of Riley Weselowski and young defensemen Jacob Graves and Sean Allen is exciting as the youngsters showed promise last year. Finally, the return of player/assistant coach Stefan Fournier should excite many following his career year in which he set new highs in goals (24), assists (18), and points (42).
- Fournier (F): 42 points (24g, 18a) in 52 games
- Crinella (F): 32 points (19g, 13a) in 52 games
- Gillam (G): 3.48 goals against average, .905 save percentage, 15-19-4 record in 40 games
- Billy Exell – Retired
- Maxime Fortier – Went to Europe, but the Thunder still retain his ECHL rights
- John Curran (F): 26 points (6g, 20a) in 47 games with the Coventry Blaze (EIHL) last year
- Anthony Beauregard (F): 46 points (17g, 29a) in 48 games with the Dundee Stars (EIHL) last year
What to Watch For?
- The development of Crinella and Dorowicz could be monumental this season, as both were on pace for 20+ goal seasons last year before the pause.
- How can Wichita produce with potentially limited to no affiliation help due to COVID-19 USA-Canada border restrictions?
Matthew Harding and Matthew Will cover the Wichita Thunder for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with them on Twitter @SinBinThunder.
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