(WICHITA, KS) – Dyson Stevenson and Ralph Cuddemi each had a goal and an assist, and coupled with a 2/4 power play performance, led the Wichita Thunder to a 4-1 win over the Rapid City Rush on Saturday night. The loss marks the first time since the first three games of the season that the Rush suffered regulation losses in back-to-back games.
Wichita struck first for a second consecutive night, but unlike last night, only left the first 20 minutes with one goal. Triggering a shower of teddy bears was captain Dyson Stevenson on a five-on-three power play, who deflected a Jeremy Beaudry blue line shot by Rush net-minder Michael Bitzer to put the Thunder up 1-0 with 9:58 remaining in the first (Beaudry and Pierre-Cedric Labrie assisted).
Despite the Rush hamming the Thunder with a 20-9 shot differential in the second, the Thunder added a pair to their lead heading into the third period. With 4:15 gone by in the period, Stevenson found Steven Iacobellis with a saucer pass over the blue line down in front of Bitzer’s crease, and Iacobellis finished with a nifty maneuver and tucked the puck to give Wichita a 2-0 lead (Stevenson and Labrie assisted). Ralph Cuddemi then made it 3-0 when he pushed a back-door pass from Nolan Vesey behind Bitzer with 1:43 left in the period (Vesey and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin assisted).
For a second straight night, the Rush broke the shutout of Oilers goalie Dylan Wells and got on the board thanks to Cedric Montminy. On a delayed call with 11:10 left in the game, Garrett Klotz found Montminy wide-open on the backdoor, with Montminy burying the pass by Wells to cut the deficit to 3-1 (Klotz had the lone assist). Wichita got the last word on their third power play of the game, taking advantage of an aggressive Rush push while shorthanded. With 5:32 remaining in the contest, Michael Turner led a shorthanded Rush into the Thunder zone, and the Rush got caught up ice as a result of the rally. All alone on the Rush blue line was Stefan Fournier, who took a Keoni Texiera “Hail Mary” down the ice, went on a breakaway against Bitzer, and backhanded a shot in close range to bring the score to its final of 4-1.
Michael Bitzer, making his first start since November 24th, suffered the loss while stopping 29 of 33 shots on goal.
The Rush conclude their first week of their 8-game-in-12-night road trip, and their opening portion of 5-games-in-6-nights with the finale of their “three-in-three” against the Thunder tomorrow afternoon. Puck drop at INTRUST Bank Arena is slated for 3:05 p.m. MST.