The supposed weaknesses the Thunder displayed during its 1-3-1 start to the hockey season appeared to become strengths as Wichita beat Missouri 3-0 at home on Friday night.
The balanced scoring that kept the Thunder from netting the goal that could have turned a pair of one-goal losses into wins last weekend became an asset when three players, including defenseman Nathan Lutz, notched goals on Friday.
The goaltending that was a major culprit in Wichita’s slow start also turned into a possible advantage, as Kevin Regan stopped all 25 shots he faced.
As the Thunder becomes more cohesive with blending in new players with returners, performances like Friday’s could become more common. Kevin McClelland saw the potential for them in the road losses to Quad City and Bloomington last weekend, when the Thunder significantly outshot its opponents but couldn’t manage the big plays that could have helped it win.
"You look at the results of the road trip, and they weren’t good but we played good hockey," McClelland said. "Anytime you go into someone else’s building and put up almost 50 shots a night, you know you’re playing well. It’s a long season. I know people panic, but we didn’t panic as a group. We knew we were playing good hockey."
Eleven players have scored at least one goal for Wichita, and eight have at least two. Such balance can become a hindrance in close games if no go-to player is established, but depth has been a hallmark of the team under McClelland and has helped it reach the playoffs in his first two seasons.
Many of the newcomers have become quickly acclamated. Five new players have two goals apiece and forward Chad Painchaud has a team-best eight points. He has a plus-one rating and his goal on Friday extended his point streak to six — he has scored in every game.
Painchaud’s line features fellow newcomers Neil Trimm and Ian Lowe, who have each scored two goals with four assists.
"I think our line is clicking," Painchaud said. "(Lowe and Trimm) are playing well together, so we’re getting a long of chances and they’re going in for us right now, and it’s good."
The balanced scoring has extended to Wichita’s blue-liners, who have combined for seven goals during the first six games. Lutz scored Friday in his first game off injured reserve.
The defensemen are also beginning to stay true to their title, as Wichita has allowed three goals or fewer in each of the last three games. Goalie Kevin Regan delivered his first shutout since his rookie season on Friday while playing with outdated equipment.
"I’d like to see him when he gets his new equipment," McClelland said. "He’s wearing equipment right now that he used four years ago. I think we’re going to see a lot better goalie when he gets that stuff in."
Thunder 6, Mavericks 4
First period — 1, Wichita, Trimm (Painchaud), 1:06. 2, Missouri, Tochkin, LeBlanc, McCready), 1:38. 3, Wichita, Flath (Hanson), 1:58. 4, Missouri, Thinel (Smith, McCready), 17:34. 5, Missouri, King (Bicek, Smith), 18:06. Penalties — Boogaard, Wichita (fighting major), 2:54; Emmerson, Missouri (fighting major), 2:54; Flath, Wichita (slashing), 4:27; Hanson, Wichita (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:27; Pszenyczny, Missouri (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:27; Lutz, Wichita (boarding), 5:07; Flanigan, Wichita (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Pierce, Missouri (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Donaghy, Wichita (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:50; Pszenyczny, Missouri (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:50; Madden, Wichita (roughing), 18:18; Forsyth, Missouri (roughing double minor), 18:18.
Second period — 6, Wichita, Lowe (Trimm), 4:51. 7, Missouri, VanderVeeken (Thinel, Jardine), 7:35. 8, Wichita, Trimm (Lowe, Inman), 10:29 (pp). Penalties — Boogaard, Wichita (fighting major), 7:21; King, Missouri (fighting major), 7:21; Dickson, Missouri (roughing (9:15); Hanson, Wichita (roughing), 12:19; Bicek, Missouri (roughing), 12:19; Bickek, Missouri (slashing), 12:19; King, Missouri (slashing), 19:46.
Third period — 9, Wichita, Hanson (Lutz, Summers), 1:34 (pp). 10, Wichita, Lowe (Painchaud, Lutz), 19:21 (pp). Penalties — Flath, Wichita (holding stick), 3:53; McCready, Missouri (slashing), 9:21; Summers, Wichita (interference), 9:43; Hanson, Wichita (high sticking), 12:24; Pszenyczny (slashing), 19:04.
Power plays — Wichit 3 for 6, Missouri 0 for 5.
Shots — Wichita 10-15-9—34, Missouri 20-9-10—39.
Saves — Wichita, Jung 39 shots, 35 saves; Missourui, Mathieu 34-28.
T — 2:42. A — 5,800.