(WICHITA, KS) – Andrew Sturtz’ first goal of the year squared the game up at 1-1 entering the first intermission, but the Wichita Thunder pulled away with three unanswered goals in the last two periods of play, and in conjunction with Evan Weninger’s 33 saves, defeated the Rapid City Rush by a 4-1 score on Saturday night. The Rush loss now sets up a rubber match for tomorrow afternoon’s “three-in-three” finale, and gives the team a 1-1-0-0 record through two of their six games on the “Stock Show Road Trip”.
Both teams drew level with goals late in the first period of play. Former Rush forward Matteo Gennaro broke the shutout streak of Rush net-minder Dave Tendeck with a shot through traffic that squeaked by him to give Wichita a 1-0 lead with 5:34 remaining in the first (Mathieu Gagnon and Gordie Green assisted). However, a faceoff play in the last minute of the frame allowed the Rush to tie things up before the buzzer. With 31.6 seconds remaining, Tyson Empey won an offensive zone draw to Gabriel Chabot, who deferred to Ian Edmondson on the blue line. Edmondson rifled a shot through traffic that was deflected by Andrew Sturtz and in past Thunder goalie Evan Weninger, squaring the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes (Edmondson and Chabot assisted).
The Thunder capitalized early in the second period and never looked back en route to their win. Anthony Beauregard got things started for Wichita 47 seconds into the second when he deflected a shot past Tendeck while diving towards the net, putting the home side on top 2-1 (Jay Dickman and Jacob Graves assisted). Just under five minutes later, Matteo Gennaro came into the Rush zone and deked out Tendeck with a slick maneuver, slipping the puck past him to extend Wichita’s lead to 3-1 with 5:20 played in the stanza (Jeremy McKenna and Bobby McMann assisted).
Wichita’s final nail in the coffin came within the first half of the final period, and it was Cam Clarke coming through with his first professional goal. At the 6:26 mark of the third frame, Clarke collected a rebound off of an odd-man break into the Rush zone, and fired it by Tendeck to vault Wichita to a 4-1 lead (McKenna and Gennaro assisted). Despite great flurries throughout the game in front of Weninger’s net, he and his defense held on and stifled the Rush in the last two periods, leading to their 4-1 victory.
Dave Tendeck suffered the loss in net for the Rush, stopping 27 of 31 shots in the defeat (2-6-0-0).
The Rush continue their annual “Stock Show Road Trip”, which takes them through three cities for six games over the next nights. The rubber match and the finale of the “three-in-three” against the Wichita Thunder is set for tomorrow afternoon, January 31st, with puck drop slated for 3:05 p.m. MDT at INTRUST Bank Arena.