As if being down two games to none wasnt damaging enough, the Thunders chances of rallying against Fort Wayne to win the best-of-seven Central Hockey League finals are now partially reliant on the health of two of its most important players.
Goalie Adam Russo and forward Alex Bourret were both too injured to finish Game 2, which Fort Wayne won 6-3 at Intrust Bank Arena on Sunday. Russo left in the second period because of a mild concussion after playing ineffectively and Bourret didnt play after the first period because of an injury suffered the night before.
Bourret had a concussion and a broken rib and, like Russo, will be a game-time decision for Thursdays Game 3 in Fort Wayne. The Thunder has played most of the season with portions of its roster unavailable, so while Wichita isnt panicking, the setback has come at an inopportune time.
"Theres nothing really major wrong with them," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said, adding that his discretion regarding the use of injured players doesnt change from the regular season and that hell continue to trust the judgment of team doctors and trainers.
The Thunder has played without forwards Chris Greene, Matt Summers and Aaron Davis at times during the postseason, with Davis out for seven of that groups 10 missed games.
Wichita has survived to this point without them, but losing Bourret can be equated to losing multiple players because of his versatility.
Bourret sets the tone for the Thunders physical style, and though that has been rendered somewhat obsolete by Fort Waynes ability to control the tempo, it is completely impotent without Bourrets crushing hits.
The Thunders offense also suffers without Bourret, who can create his own shot and execute crisp passes that allow his teammates scoring opportunities. Linemate Thomas Beauregard scored twice in Game 1 but didnt notch a goal in Game 2 while seeing his shots dwindle from six to three with Bourret mostly unavailable.
"Its playoff time theres always injuries," Thunder captain Daniel Tetrault said. "Guys are playing hurt, but we cant use it as an excuse. We all have to step up as a team. Whoever goes down, guys will have to step up. Im sure (Fort Wayne) has a lot of injuries, too. Youve just got to battle through it."
Russo, though he has been subpar during the series, is another of Wichitas emotional leaders, a locker room prankster who is perhaps the player most responsible for the Thunders noticeable chemistry.
Wichita needs Russo not just for his typically strong play in net but for his ability to keep his teammates loose in the face of danger.
Hope is not lost if Wichita cant employ Russo and Bourret on Thursday, just badly harmed. As McClelland points out, the Thunder played without several stars in the two regular-season games with Fort Wayne and still won both.
"We did it all year," McClelland said. "The one game we went into Fort Wayne we didnt have Davis, we didnt have Tetrault and we didnt have Bourret and we still did all right. ... Its a matter of the guys coming into the lineup to do the job."