Andrew Martens pedaled an exercise bike after the Thunder’s 4-0 loss to Rapid City on Saturday night, eyes forward, talking like a captain talks.
The Wichita defenseman and locker-room leader was one of many Thunder players who had numerous chances to score but failed. Martens, the point man during Wichita’s 5-on-3 advantage in the second period, felt his shortcomings were most glaring.
But as much as Wichita suffered from an off night, the performance of Rapid City goalkeeper Tim Boron was at least as much to blame, probably more. Boron stopped all 37 Wichita shots, earning a shutout against his former team that he admitted came with some good fortune.
Bad luck wasn’t a good enough explanation for Martens, who couldn’t immediately shrug off the defeat as the Thunder’s ability to follow the law of averages with their high shot totals and point-blank chances. The loss broke Wichita’s four-game winning streak.
"It’s tough," Martens said. "When you get opportunities, you’ve got to bear down and put pucks in. I had two open-nets there, and I’ve got to be a leader and show by example and put those in the back of the net."
Boron, a former Thunder goalie, earned his eighth career shutout. Wichita’s shot totals went down each period but the Thunder never relented, at least when the game was still in-reach. The offense that was fluid enough to make crisp passes that led to so many shots, however, was unable to put one in.
The shift from the Thunder having a poor shooting night to it becoming clear Boron was having an outstanding game in net happened when Wichita got a two-man advantage in the second but was unable to score. The Thunder played 91 seconds at 5-on-3 and a one-goal deficit with many of its best scorers on the ice.
But Martens, Matt Summers and RG Flath had close shots go wide; one went off the post, and Boron stopped several more. The momentum that created for Rapid City didn’t show up until the third period, but the Thunder never had such a good chance to tie it.
"With that 5-on-3, they had some great movement and I had a few pads on a few, but they also missed a few slap shots from the slow, missed low-glove," Boron said. “I was fortunate enough to catch those wide shots. Some nights are like that. They had a lot of pressure there, and getting through that was key for our team."
A shutout became less imperative for Rapid City when Jarrett Konkle scored a power-play goal five minutes into the third to put the Rush ahead 2-0. The Thunder was mostly listless after that, seeing its shots decrease while Boron stayed motivated.
Wichita challenged Boron with different looks — 13 players took at least one shot for the Thunder compared to nine for Rapid City, which was outshot by 20. But eventually Boron got comfortable and became unstoppable.
"He played well tonight," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. "You’ve got to be smarter when the goaltender comes out and challenges you that much. You’ve got to make him move a little bit and get around him. But he played a heck of a hockey game."
Friday’s 6-2 Wichita win over the Rush was highlighted by four fights — two pairs in rapid succession during the first and third period. There were no fights Thursday, instead Boron removed the need for the Rush to swing momentum.
Boron didn’t start Friday because he was sick, but he entered the game in the first period and stopped Wichita’s three-goal surge. Saturday, he shook off his sickness and every Thunder attempt.
"It’s 60 minutes, and a lot of things can happen," Boron said. "A lot of funny bounces and stuff. Everything needs to go your way. The team needs to play well, I have to be playing well, and you have to dodge any funny bounces or anything like that. They don’t come around too often, that’s why there’s a lot of factors that can ruin a shutout."
Scoring—None. Penalties—Wichita, Inman (boarding), 11:12; Rapid City, Penner (roughing), 18:44.
Scoring—1. Rapid City, Brown (Wray), 7:15. Penalties—Rapid City, Konkle (tripping), 8:51; Rapid City, Peto (cross checking), 12:53; Rapid City, Lee (too many men bench minor), 13:22; Wichita, Reaney (high sticking), 15:43; Rapid City, Sawyer (holding), 18:07.
Scoring—2. Rapid City, Konkle PP (Surma, Brown), 5:04; 3. Rapid City, Snowden (Baker), 16:45; 4. Rapid City, Wray (Konkle, Peto), 19:18. Penalties—Wichita, Summers (hooking), 3:29; Rapid City, Glaicar (hooking), 6:19; Wichita, Inman (hooking), 7:39; Rapid City, Brown (hooking), 9:50; Rapid City, Baker (roughing), 18:20; Wichita, Summers (cross checking), 18:20.
Power play—Rapid City 1 for 4, Wichita 0 for 7
Shots—Rapid City 5-6-10—21, Wichita 17-11-9—37
Saves—Rapid City, Boron 37 shots, 37 saves; Wichita, Regan 17-21.