The Wichita Thunder Are Finding A Million Ways To Win

The Wichita Thunder Are Finding A Million Ways To Win

The Wichita Thunder are flying under the radar but putting together one of the best seasons in the entire ECHL.

Apr 14, 2021 by Jacob Messing
The Wichita Thunder Are Finding A Million Ways To Win

The Wichita Thunder saw their six-game winning streak snapped Sunday night, but their postseason path is encouraging two-thirds of the way through the season as they find ways to win in every fashion.

Wichita’s recent six-game push has them sitting atop the ECHL’s Western Conference via points, placing them in early contention for the Henry Brabham Cup, awarded to the team with the most regular-season points.

Wichita sits third in FloHockey’s latest ECHL Power Rankings, slipping a spot due to the hot streak of the Allen Americans.

The Thunder boast the ECHL’s leading scorer in breakout star Anthony Beauregard. The 25-year-old has recorded 16 goals and 36 assists for 52 points in 47 games in his third season in the league.

During his first two seasons, where he skated in 88 games between the Indy Fuel (2016-17) and Brampton Beast (2018-19), Beauregard totaled 15 goals and 38 points. The 5-foot-7 forward spent last season in the United Kingdom’s EIHL, where he finished 12th in league scoring and gained confidence for the current season. 

Beauregard leads the ECHL with 36 assists over his 47 games and sits five points up on the next leading scorer, 31-year-old veteran Brodie Reid with the Kansas City Mavericks.

Beauregard’s impressive campaign has been the lightning to the Thunder, giving the team a hard-to-stop forward who wills the puck to the back of the opponent’s net. His pace has carried the team to a 29-14-4-1 record that places their point atop the Western Conference and three points from the annual-contender, league-leading Florida Everblades (66 points).

The Thunder have made it to the playoffs just once since losing to the Allen Americans in the final in 2012-13 — falling to the Colorado Eagles in a six-game, first-round exit in 2018. The Thunder sat sixth in the Mountain Division at the time of the season’s COVID cancellation last year.

For a team on the path to the playoffs, their recent play shows the elements needed to do more than simply participate in the postseason. The now-broken six-game streak saw the Thunder snag two shutout victories (3-0 and 1-0), a 3-2 overtime win, 3-2 decision courtesy of a three-goal comeback, a nearly blown 5-4 win, and an average 3-1 win.

Shutouts are always impressive. They display a team that works together at each position and plays a cohesive game that turns away all offense. Having two in their six-game span speaks to just how cohesive the Thunder are playing.

But goaltending plays a significant role in blanking an opponent for 60 straight minutes. Pucks squeak by, but netminders Evan Weninger and Evan Buitenhuis have made sure to allow as few “he wishes he could have that one back” goals as possible and they have done their job.

And where the goalies have contributed, so has the offense. On nights of communication breakdown, strong teams have positions step up for the others. So when the Thunder found themselves down 2-0 in the first game of their streak, the offense buckled down and put together a three-goal second period that tilted the score to a final 3-2 win.

Three games later, the Thunder would mount another comeback, this time with a late third-period goal that tied up the score before Beauregard set up Anthony Watts for the 3-2 overtime winner.

But playing from behind isn’t a recipe for sustainable winning. So, the Thunder have always worked on building leads. That was the case over the weekend, where they surrendered a three-goal lead to fall behind 4-3 entering the third period. Some teams would fall apart and not recover, but the Thunder stood up to the challenge and reclaimed the scoreboard in the third period with two goals for the thrilling 5-4 win.

A win is a win and every point earned goes toward the total, so calling their 3-1 victory average is merely due to its lack of excitement compared to the other recent wins for the Thunder. But the 3-1 win says the Thunder don’t care about winning boring games with a lack of flash — they’re in it for the W.

The Thunder are showing they are a serious threat and can beat opponents in a multitude of ways. No lead is safe against them and besting them is going to require the same cohesion they bring every night.

Catch all three games of Wichita’s upcoming series against the Tulsa Oilers (21-21-4-2) live this weekend, right here on FloHockey.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.