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Wichita Thunder

In what should have been fairly easy two game wins for Wichita, the Thunder ended up splitting their back-to-back games in Brampton. Although Brampton is currently 6th in the Central Division (compared to Wichita’s 3rd rank), the Beast have been on a winning streak lately, defeating Rapid City at home three games straight.

A 22-hour bus trip to Brampton is never a good start to a 3-games-in-3-days stretch for a hockey team. In the AHL a Western Conference team would have flown that distance, arriving the same day, enjoyed a relaxing dinner that evening and would have been well rested, as much as possible, after a travel day and ready to face their opponent the next evening. In the ECHL life is a bit different for the boys, busing all the way across the country from Kansas to Canada. That’s just part of life in the ECHL’s Central Division this season.

In addition to the travel, the Wichita Thunder had several other issues to overcome on this road trip. Nikita Kashirsky, the team’s assistant coach and center (with 11 points for the season, 5 goals and 6 assists), and Kirill Tulupov, their solid shutdown defenseman with an offensive upside (2 goals and 1 assist), remained at home in Wichita. The official reasoning was not explained, however, given that the two are Russian nationals, the most obvious answer is that the team had not prepared their Visa paperwork for entry into Canada in time for the trip. For a team like the Wichita Thunder this isn’t good news when you leave two players who have played every game for the team since they joined the roster and have contributed to the team’s growing success this season. We see this occasionally in the minors — even in the AHL — but there’s never a good excuse for such an oversight.

As well as missing Kashirsky and Tulupov, Kurtis Bartliff is still out on Injured Reserve and did not make the road trip. Bartliff has done incredibly well lately, battling to the net and scoring some outstanding goals for the Thunder.

Added to the Thunder’s already short roster, on the way to the arena on Friday evening (Dec. 5th), it was discovered that one of their remaining defensemen, Eric Meland, was too ill to play that night. The Thunder’s roster on Friday consisted of 5 defensemen, 9 forwards and 2 goalies — only 16 players, 2 short of the normal 18 roster. Coach McClelland ended up double-shifting not only his defense, but his forwards as well.

The Thunder’s Friday Dec. 5th game ended in a 4-1 defeat, even with Wichita outshooting Brampton 46 to 28. Kyle Gibbons, the new forward who was just added to the team, scored Wichita’s only goal of the night in his debut with the Thunder (with assists from Kenton Miller and Ian Duval). In the end, Wichita was unable to overcome their short defense, the rough start to the game goaltending-wise and Brampton’s solid goaltending by Trevor Cann.

Period Team Time Goals
1st BRM 4:05 M. MacIsaac (assists T. Fawcett, C. Painchaud)
1st BRM 6:44 C. Painchaud (assists A. Corbin, A. Darrigo)
2nd WIC 10:14 K. Gibbons (assists K. Miller, I. Duval)
3rd BRM 1:44 R. Ricci (assists M. MacIsaac, J. Dale) – PP
3rd BRM 17:53 T. Fawcett (assist C. Painchaud) – EN

Dec. 5 – Brampton defeats Thunder 4-1


Saturday’s Dec. 6th game looked far more like the Thunder we have been watching lately, outshooting the Beast 38-33 overall, and with the extra defenseman Meland back on the roster, the team was at least a full contingent of D for the night. The team played short on forwards, with just 9 once again, but in the end it was just one forward who tallied goals for the Thunder in their 3-1 victory over Brampton.

The game remained scoreless until 8:04 into the third period when Brampton scored with a goal from Calin Wild (with an assist from Jason Dale). About a minute later, Thunder’s Danick Gauthier scored with a wrister over Grant Rollheiser’s blocker to tie the game 1-1. Gauthier scored again at 17:01 (with an assist by Ian Lowe) and once again at the end of the game with an empty net goal (assisted by Dan Milan) to end his night with a natural hat trick and the Thunder win 3-1.

Per Team Time Goals
3rd BRM 8:04 C. Wild (assist J. Dale)
3rd WIC 9:15 D. Gauthier
3rd WIC 17:01 D. Gauthier (assist I. Lowe)
3rd WIC 19:38 D. Gauthier (assist D. Milan) — EN

Dec. 6 – Thunder defeats Brampton 3-1


Today the Wichita Thunder are in Elmira, New York to face their first “ECHL” team of the season, the Elmira Jackals, who are currently ranked 3rd in their East Division and 5th overall in the Eastern Conference. This will be the Thunder’s first test to see how they compare to one of the ECHL teams who are outside the ECHL’s Central Division, and not a member of the former CHL league who just joined the ECHL this season.

Elmira is a tough team, with an 11-7-0-3 record in 21 games, with 25 points. They also have a high Penalty in Minutes (PIM) stat at 394, just over 100 minutes more than the Wichita Thunder at 291.

Game begins at 4:05 p.m. (Eastern), 3:05 p.m. (Central).