PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. (March 26th) – Playing with a short bench, Wichita (27-29-8) broke its recent skid of falling in shootouts on Wednesday night getting past Arizona (30-27-7) at Tim’s Toyota Center by the final score of 5-4 in a shootout. Dustin Donaghy led the way with a pair of goals for the Thunder while Matt Robinson tallied his 26th all-time game-winner in the shootout. Wichita is 3-4-0 against the Sundogs this season and have won the last two games in Prescott Valley. The Thunder snap their shootout-losing skid after falling in the last four and are now 7-5 when games are decided in the penalty shot round.
The Sundogs tested Taylor Nelson early with some good chances on the second-year netminder for the Thunder. He was up to the task until Kevin Baker broke through at 12:35 of the first. Brandon Coccimiglio found him on a two-on-one with a Thunder player trying to get back defensively and beat Nelson with a backhand. Arizona led in the shot department 8-7 after the first.
The fireworks started in the second period as Wichita outscored the Sundogs by a 2-1 margin. At 9:44, play was halted and a face-off was about to be dropped near the Arizona bench. Erick Lizon and Garrett Clarke continued to jaw at one another. The two got together as did everyone else on the ice and a melee almost erupted. Lizon was sent off for 12 minutes in penalties while Clarke was assessed four minutes for roughing. The Thunder killed off a penalty and then got a two man advantage near the 11 minute mark. Matt Summers tied the game with a wrist shot from in-close on the front half of the five-on-three.
Arizona killed off the second power play and then re-took the lead halfway through. Coccimiglio headed to the net during a delayed penalty and scored to make it 2-1 at 10:43 in favor of Arizona. The Thunder tied it up with three minutes remaining in the frame as Donaghy stripped the puck from an Arizona defenseman, came down alone on Adam Brown and scored to tie the game at two. The second period alone saw the Thunder have two five-on-three chances for almost a minute and a half and another with just five seconds. The two teams combined for 38 penalty minutes in the period.
Donaghy scored his second of the game at 11:35 of the third after retreiveing a Matt Robinson pass from behind the net and blasted it past Brown for the Thunder’s first lead of the contest, up 3-2. The Sundogs fought back three minutes later when Baker scored his second of the game at 14:33. He took the puck at the side of the net, walked out to the front of the crease and tucked home a backhand that evened the score at three. Wichita didn’t waste any time answering when Mike Wilson found Jason Wilson on a two-on-one chance 26 seconds later and Jason buried it to re-gain the lead for the Thunder, up 4-3. Arizona did the same as Coccimiglio recorded his second of the night. 26 seconds after the Thunder scored, he was able to beat Nelson off a face-off play and the game ended up tied with five minutes to go. Both teams fired double digit shots on net in the third, but the score remained tied at four and overtime was necessary.
Arizona had the better of the scoring chances in the extra period, but Nelson was up to the task after stopping all three shots he faced. The two teams ended up going into the shootout for the second time between the two. Matt Robinson and Matt Summers each buried their chances in the first two rounds while Jason Morgan was stopped for the Sundogs. David Rutherford appeared to have his denied at the top of round two when he collided with Nelson in the crease. The official deemed that the puck crossed the line before the net came off or no interference on Rutherford for running into the Thunder netminder and the score at that point was evened up.
The next four shooters were each stopped as Tomas Klempa and Ian Lowe were unsuccessful for the Thunder as was Kevin Baker and Shawn Limpright. At the bottom of round five, Bryan Cameron needed to score to extend the shootout, but he wasn’t able to beat Nelson and Matt Robinson’s goal in round two stood up as the game-winner.
The Thunder played with just four defensemen and nine forwards, but were able to improve their all-time record to 4-3-0 at Tim’s Toyota Center with the win. The Thunder equal their most shots in a game with 46 fired on net. The last time Wichita had 46 shots in a game was on December 29th at St. Charles. Wichita’s 23 shots in the second is a new season-high for most shots in a period, which was 20 shots that took place back on October 26th at Denver.
Donaghy records his first multi-goal game of the season and pushes his season-totals to six. Flath and Klempa failed to find the score-sheet as each have their streaks snapped. Flath had nine points in his last seven games (3g, 6a). Klempa’s is stopped at six games, recording 12 points in that stretch (4g, 8a). Nelson grabs his 14th win of the season and his fourth shootout victory, stopping 35 of 39 shots. Brown took the loss in his first start for the Sundogs, making 41 saves on 45 shots he faced.
Wichita was 1-for-7 on the power play. Arizona went 1-for-1 on the man advantage.
Wichita will resume action on Friday night against the Sundogs at 9:05 p.m. CST. Each of the remaining road games can be seen at Pucks Sports Bar, located inside thw Wichita Ice Center.
With Wichita Thunder team release
Contact the photographer: Ed.Bailey@prohockeynews.com