If the Central Hockey League compiled BCS Standings like college football, the Wichita Thunder would be sitting on top and in prime position for a berth in the championship game.
Winners of three straight games, the Thunder has forged an 11-4 record with a Berry Conference-leading 22 points while playing the toughest schedule in the league.
Consider that the Thunder has played only one team, Quad City, with a losing record.
The rest of the schedule is filled with victories against top teams: Rapid City (8-6-1), Allen (9-3-3), Tulsa (9-6-2, with three losses coming to Wichita), and Missouri (8-5-2).
The Thunder can further enhance its resume on Friday, when Evansville, which leads the Turner Conference, comes to town. Evansville is 9-3-1.
"Another top team in the league," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. "We've seen them all."
The next coaches poll comes out on Friday. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Thunder and Evansville in the top two spots, setting up one of the best early season games in the CHL.
* You won't find a clearer example of how hockey players police the sport than the recent dust-up involving rival Missouri. The Thunder felt that the Mavs' Mike Wakita took a cheap shot at forward Chris Greene at Missouri's rink. So when Missouri came to Wichita, Thunder scrapper Erick Lizon challenged Wakita to two fights, gaining a clear victory with a vicious right in the second bout. Thunder center Matt Summers, a strong proponent of teammates sticking up for each other, was pleased. "We can't have teams knocking our players out of the lineup and thinking it's OK, because that's not the case," he said. "If things go south, you need your teammates right there with you."
* Andrew Martens is tied for the CHL lead among defensemen with six goals. Jarred Mohr leads in plus/minus at plus-15.
* Can Tulsa goalie Ian Keserich keep up this pace? He leads the league in minutes (910:56), and it's not even close. Even when he played in Wichita, Kerserich has said he likes the work load.
Adam Russo, in his first year in Wichita, is the CHL's goaltender of the week. He went 3-0 with a 1.66 goals-against average, and he is tied for the league lead in wins with eight. In addition, the fiery, emotional Russo is just plain fun to watch.
The Thunder power play is a sorry 14.3 percent at home. On the road, it's exactly twice as good. Mysterious.
TAP OF THE STICK
From my new spot in the press box, I am in perfect position to hear the Thunder radio broadcasts. Play by play man Jason Mals, and the listeners, are lucky to have two color commentators that add knowledge and entertainment. And Mals is doing a nice job asking questions to draw out their expertise. Scott Rozendal, who used to play for the Thunder, is becoming skilled at providing insightful comments. Recently, defensemen Travis Wight blasted a Missouri player, who was waiting for a pass, near center ice. (Wight was whistled for an illegal check to the head minor.) Rozendal told the listeners that players call the pass a "suicide pass" because it left the Mavs player vulnerable. During a break, Rozendal, who was known as an agitator, told me he used to call Dave D.Pszenyczny "Alphabet." It was the kind of an aside that listeners would have loved to hear. The other color man, Rob Boyle, has valuable, firsthand knowledge of the CHL because he used to be a Thunder assistant coach.
Clifford will be at the Thunder game on Friday. GM Joel Lomurno said he didn't know who the Big Red Dog was. Inexcusable.
Points needed by captain Daniel Tetrault to become the Thunder career leading scorer among defensemen. He played in his 700th game over the weekend.
DEFINING DIGIT II
Wichita's goals per game, tied for tops in the CHL with Allen