PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – Wichita (27-30-9) closed out the regular season on Saturday night, falling to Arizona (32-27-7) by the final score of 5-3 at Tim’s Toyota Center. The Sundogs battled back from 3-2 deficit heading into the third period and pulled away late after the final 12 minutes turned into a penalty-fest. The two teams combined for 72 penalty minutes in the final period. Matt Summers recorded a pair and Tomas Klempa tallied his 18th of the season in the losing effort. Wichita falls in the season-series to the Sundogs, going 3-5-1 in the nine meetings.
The game got off to an odd start, which benefited the Thunder 43 seconds in. As Mike Forney was taking a hit on the left wall by Summers, his pass towards the Arizona net got through the legs of Adam Brown to make it 1-0. The goal was awarded to Summers, which was his first of two on the night. The story over the next eight minutes was the play of Taylor Nelson, who turned away several quality scoring chances. His best may have been with 7:53 remaining in the first when Brandon Coccimiglio appeared to have him beat, but Nelson sprawled across the goal line and kept the puck out of the net. The score board operator and the fans all thought it was in, but the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Thunder. Matt McCready broke through at 12:59 with a shot from the right circle that got past Nelson through traffic to tie it at one. Bryan Cameron scored five minutes later after skating through the middle and notching his 20th of the year for a 2-1 Sundogs’ lead.
In the second, the Thunder potted the only two of the frame as the Flath, Summers and Klempa line continued on their torrid pace. Klempa found a loose puck at the right circle and buried it at 5:10 with a power play marker that evened up the contest at two. At 13:35, Wichita took its second lead of the game. Flath won the draw back to Leppanen and his shot got through traffic. After it re-directed off Flath at the top of the left circle, Summers put home a rebound which gave Wichita a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Arizona didn’t waste any time getting back into the game as Paul McIlveen scored 14 seconds into the third with a one-timer from the left circle to tie the game at three. At 7:18, Coccimiglio beat Nelson from the left circle and gave Arizona the lead for good. The Sundogs tacked on another 33 seconds later when a Tommy Maxwell shot hit Nelson’s leg pad, cleared to the slot and Shawn Limpright scored to make it 5-3
Halfway through the third, the fun began when Klempa railed McCready in the left corner of the Arizona zone. Jordan Clendenning came over to protect his teammate, followed by everyone else on the ice. Madden joined the scrum and went after Clendenning. Both players were assessed 15 minutes each and sent to the showers. 43 seconds later, Maxwell elbowed Flath in the face that went uncalled, which sparked another scrum. Lizon was sent out of the contest and collected 27 minutes in penalties alone. The next exchange occurred when Andrew Martens got slashed by David Rutherford at 13:32 and he was sent off for a five-minute major. Wichita was awarded a few late power plays, but the game ended with the home team claiming a 5-3 victory.
Wichita ends the regular season above .500 on the road despite the loss tonight (15-13-5). Summers finishes with 18 goals on the season and 48 points, just two shy of reaching 50 for the fourth-straight season. Klempa finished the week with three goals and four points. He extended his point-streak to nine games (7g, 10a) tonight with his fifth power play goal of the season. During that span, he has six games with two or more points and two games with three. Nelson takes the loss, stopping 41 of 46 shots. Brown collects his first win since signing with Arizona, stopping 24 of 27 shots.
Wichita was 1-for-5 on the power play. Arizona went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.
With Wichita Thunder team release
Contact the photographer: Ed.Bailey@prohockeynews.com