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Wichita Thunder Shootout Win! (Photo courtesy Ed Bailey. All Rights Reserved.)

Wichita Thunder Shootout Win! (Photo courtesy Ed Bailey. All Rights Reserved.)

The Wichita Thunder not only win after a long torturous six-game losing skid, they actually win their most crucial game of the season against the top ranked Allen Americans last night. That’s a great night in Wichita in front of over 6,800 very loud and encouraging fans!

The Thunder now move up to within three points of the Tulsa Oilers sitting in that coveted 4th place spot for a playoff position. Tulsa has a game-in-hand and will play the Missouri Mavericks on Friday and Saturday, while Wichita will play Brampton on Saturday night. Wichita needs every win and they also need Tulsa to lose in order to jump above the Oilers to move into that final playoff position.

Coach Kevin McClelland told the Wichita Eagle,”We know that our season’s desperate now. We have to play desperate from here on out.”

With speedy center Nikita Kashirsky out of the lineup due to an injury the Thunder had to rely on other offense to get the job done. The first period was one of the best this season from Wichita — great pressure, very solid defense and some very smart, aggressive hockey. While the shots on goal for the Thunder were minimal at best for the entire game, they managed to keep the game well within reach, never trailing Allen. And Wichita’s goaltender Grant Rollheiser came up very strong during the shootout keeping the Thunder in the game.

Allen 15 12 8 1 0 36
Wichita 5 8 4 2 1 20

The biggest issue for the Thunder last night was their stalled powerplay. The Americans capitalized on two of their three powerplays, and the Thunder was unable to score on any of their five powerplay opportunities.

Justin Bernhardt ended the night with two goals, his 14th and 15th of the season, and Ian Lowe had his 18th goal of the season to tie the game at 3 leading into overtime, however it all came down to a shootout between the Thunder and Allen in the end despite a strong overtime by the Thunder.

“You could tell in the overtime we were trying to win it then because our shootout record is not very good,” McClelland told the Wichita Eagle.

Greger Hanson scored for the Americans in the top of the 3rd round, and Kenton Miller tied it for the Thunder at the bottom of the 5th round. In extra rounds Thunder’s Mike MacIntyre went top shelf past Allen’s Joel Rumpel to win the game at the bottom of the 7th round to keep the Thunder in the playoff hunt.

Period Team Time Goals
1st WIC 10:12 J. Bernhardt (assists K. Miller, D. Gauthier)
2nd WIC 5:47 I. Lowe (assist T. Hosmer)
2nd ALN 6:16 J. Baker (assist V. Arseneau)
2nd ALN 8:24 K. Abeltshauser (assists G. Hanson, S. Asuchak) – PP
2nd WIC 10:48 J. Bernhardt (assist M. Wilson)
2nd ALN 13:31 S. Asuchak (assists A. Gens, C. Costello) – PP

What does it take now for the Thunder to advance to the playoffs? Justin Bernhardt summed it up very well. “We have to win pretty much every game now, and maybe Tulsa can do us some favors.  That’d be all right with me.”

Mike MacIntyre shared the feelings of the entire team down this last stretch, “This fight’s not over until the end, you know? The playoffs are right there and we’re going to keep battling until we get to the end and squeak in. All the boys want to do it.”

The Thunder face the Brampton Beast at home on Saturday night. Be there!