Ralph Cuddemi broke a 1-1 tie 21 seconds into the second period to lead the Wichita Thunder to a 3-1 win over the Rapid City Rush Friday night.
Both teams left the first period deadlocked at 1-1, with each team scoring a greasy goal less than a minute apart.
Wichita jumped on the board first when Chad Butcher fired a shot towards the net of Rush net-minder Steve Michalek. The puck appeared to bounce off of a number of objects in close range and squeaked by Michalek and in, giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead with 4:57 gone by in the first period (Travis Ewanyk and Etienne Boutet assisted).
Fifty Nine seconds later, Dante Salituro took the puck behind the net and found Daniel Leavens at the top of his goal crease. Leavens tapped the puck through Starrett’s legs and in, extending his point streak to six games to square the game with 5:56 gone by in the period (Salituro and Geoff Fortman assisted).
Cuddemi rifled off a pair of goals in the second period, including the eventual game-winner less than a half-minute into the frame to give Wichita their final lead of the game.
With 21 seconds gone by, Nick Latta played a bouncing puck by an oncoming defender on the far side of the Rush zone, and found a wide-open Cuddemi cross-ice in the left-wing faceoff circle. Cuddemi fired a one-timer by Michalek to give Wichita a 2-1 lead (Latta got the only assist).
Cuddemi added a second when Jon Puskar forced a bad turnover in the Rush zone and found him in close range. Cuddemi fired a shot between the faceoff circles by Michalek and made it a 3-1 with 11:13 left in the second (Puskar got the only assist).
The Rush had numerous opportunities in the third period, but Wichita goalie Shane Starrett hung tough against the Rush, stopping all 13 shots he saw, including in the final two minutes of play when Michalek was pulled in favor of the extra attacker.
Steve Michalek, in his first game with the Rush since November 4, 2017, stopped 46 of 49 shots in the loss (3-3-0).
The Rush, 18-29-2-0 with 38 points, take on the Thunder, 27-19-4-0 with 58 points, from Wichita tonight at 6:05 p.m.