Wheaton will begin the regular season on the road tonight, facing Washington University in St. Louis. This game will be the first MACHA league game for WashU, as they start their inaugural season in the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association. The Thunder will look to get a strong start to the season in their opening weekend. With several important losses to graduation over the offseason, Coach Matthew Ference and the rest of the team will look to several key returning players, as well as some incoming freshmen, to step up and fill those roles previously held by players no longer on the roster. The first two games of the season will be important for Wheaton, as they will serve as important litmus tests after three strong weeks of preseason practice.
The Wheaton Thunder have released their schedule for the upcoming season. Wheaton will start out the season with games against some new faces in WashU and Augustana. They will also face old rivals in NIU and Robert Morris University. The Thunder will only have two home games in the 2016 portion of the schedule, both coming against Lewis, but the second half of the season will consist of five home games in six total match ups, where they will face Northern Illinois, Western, and Robert Morris during that stretch. February 4th, the final regular season game, is expected to be Senior Night, and every Friday home game will be followed with a free fan skate. Wheaton will be led by captain Brant Goodrich, as well as assistant captains Spencer Graf and Davis Melin, and are looking to earn a playoff push this season after being eliminated from contention in the final weekend of last year’s regular season action.
Wheaton and SIU-E played a very close game that was hard fought on both sides, but the Cougars ultimately came away with a 2-0 victory, putting a bitter note on the Thunder’s senior night and final game of the season. Both goalies had stellar performances: Wheaton goalie Ted Townsend had 33 saves on 35 shots against, and Cougar Goalie Chandler Johnsen had 22 saves to secure the shut out. During the first intermission, Wheaton had a ceremony to honor the seven members of the team that will graduate and move on to the professional world. Danny Puknaitis, Jack Nussbaum, Anders Erikson, Austin Alianiello, David Clark, alternate captains Phil Rodriguez, Matt Bowman, and captain Isaac Melin were important members to the Wheaton College hockey team this year as well as years past, and will be sorely missed as the Thunder go into next season.
The Thunder dropped the first of two home games against SIU-E by a final score of 3-1. Wheaton started out a little sluggish, but got their feet under them about halfway through the first period, and were fortunate to head into the locker room down only 1-0, thanks to a solid period from Goalie Ted Townsend. The Wheaton offense ramped it up after the first period, generating 15 shots in the second and 19 in the third, but a solid performance by the Cougars’ goaltender, Ryan Bruce, was able to hold the Thunder to a lone goal, which came with less than two minutes to play. The power play, which had been a strength for Wheaton over the last few games, was flat tonight, and Bruce’s performance shut down the power play tonight, as the Thunder went 0-7 with the man advantage. With tonight’s loss Wheaton is effectively eliminated from the playoffs, but will look to finish the season out strong with their last game of the season tomorrow night, again skating against the Cougars. The game will be at Center Ice of DuPage, and puck drop will take place at 9:20 PM, with a ceremony to honor all of the graduating students on this year’s roster. Come cheer the Wheaton College hockey team on one more time, and help send the seniors out on a high note.