WICHITA, Kan. – It was billed as one of the most interesting playoff matchups of the CHL post-season, and game one certainly didn’t disappoint Thursday, as the Wichita Thunder on Matt Robinson’s overtime goal to take a 1-0 best-of-seven series lead over the visiting Arizona Sundogs in front of 2,166 fans at Intrust Bank Arena.
The storylines are abundant in this series. Wichita, after a runner-up finish in the 2012 playoffs, were poised for another deep playoff push after finishing just one point behind the regular season champion Allen Americans.
Seventh-seeded Arizona, anchored by goaltender Adam Russo – the goalie that Wichita rode into the final last year, have improved dramatically since the February 6 hire of the 2011 CHL Championship coach Scott Muscutt.
Those few bullet points are enough to show that this series has the makings of one that fans may talk about for a long time to come.
Matt Summers opened the scoring when he picked up the loose puck and sent a backhand past Russo from the slot 5:38 into the first period.
The Sundogs were unable to score in the opening frame, despite having two power play chances, including a five-on-three situation late in the period. Wichita would out-shoot Arizona 11-9 in the first.
The Thunder increased their lead early in the second period on a shorthanded goal from Greger Hanson. With R.G. Flath serving the final minute of a late first period cross checking penalty, Hanson took a cross-crease pass from Andrew Martens on a two-on-one break and planted it into the back of the net just 24-seconds into the second period.
Mario Larocque cut the lead in half just over three minutes later, taking a centering pass from Jeff Kyrzakos in the slot and sending it over Wichita goalie Torrie Jung’s right shoulder to make it 2-1.
Not to be outdone, Wichita regained the two-goal lead five-minutes later on a Les Reaney goal from Kevin Young and Neil Trimm. With Hanson screening Russo, Reaney picked up a loose puck just inside the right circle and sailed it into the net.
Arizona turned the tables in the third period, outshooting Wichita 9-6 and scoring two unanswered goals to force overtime.
Chad Nehring added an athletic goal 4:33 into the period, picking up the puck on the left wing and skating in on net before extending his stick across the crease and tapping the puck around Jung’s left leg and into the net to make it 3-2.
With Russo pulled for an extra attacker, Matt McCready fired a shot from the top of the right circle off the draw, tying the contest with 1:03 remaining.
3:17 into the extra period, a two-on-one break resulted in Robinson taking a cross-ice pass from Summers, and skating in on net from Russo’s right side he deked and tucked it around the netminder for the winning score.
The two squads face off again on Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 PM.
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