Quad City missed what was supposed to be the Thunder’s season opener because the organization was in shambles and the Mallards couldn’t pull themselves together in time.
Quad City finally visited Wichita on Friday night, and it was the Thunder which ended up in disarray.
An uninspired performance — the Thunder fell 3-1 at Intrust Bank Arena — had coach Kevin McClelland promising changes. Wichita seemed to right itself following a slow start by winning four straight games, but it has regressed lately, scoring one goal in its last two home games and getting inefficient performances from many usually reliable players.
"We were flat," McClelland said. "It looked like we had nothing going, it looked like we’d never played together before. I’ve told these guys before, we’re not going to be a team that’s going to win a few games, lose a few games. We’re going to make some changes."
What changes McClelland has in store is unknown, but the Thunder seems to have the personnel to pull itself from a mini slump. Some schematic changes could be in order, as the Thunder has been a dismal power-play team over the last week.
Wichita converted its first two extra-man chances last Friday, but since then the Thunder is 0 for 18, including failure on all six chances against the Mallards. McClelland tried several combinations, but none proved successful.
When Wichita trailed 2-1 in the third, it came up empty on a pair of power-play opportunities that could have led to a tie. Unable to seize momentum, the Thunder allowed Quad City to maintain it, and the Mallards sealed it with a goal with less than five minutes to play.
"We got our success by getting it back to our (defensemen) and getting our shots," Thunder forward Matt Summers said. "Not looking for the perfect shot, just getting shots. I think we were looking for that perfect play, and we need to get back to getting it to the D-men and crashing the net."
The Thunder never led, but the tying goal in the second period seemed to provide Wichita with momentary energy.
Summers got several shots toward the goal in the second but his plight mirrored that of the Thunder, which didn’t make much of its 31 shots. Summers did have a hand in Wichita’s only goal, a 2-on-1 breakaway that led to a goal by Greger Hanson.
Some pounding hits in the second also threatened to give Wichita a permanent emotional advantage, but any edge was short-lived. Quad City went back ahead late in the period and the Thunder, even with 17 third-period shots, never regained its enthusiasm.
"When we’re having a rough game, like it was, people could definitely try to take it upon themselves to get the team going and try to do more," Summers said. "That’s just the competitive nature that we have on the team, to try to get it going for the other guys. Get pumped up, get excited."
The matchup with Quad City wasn’t a favorable one. The Mallards don’t have the offensive depth of the Thunder, but they do feature defensemen who rarely leave their zone. That approach negated Wichita’s depth and made it difficult for the Thunder to break through a congested crease.
These were hardly excuses for McClelland.
"Something’s got to change," McClelland said. "We’ve got to come out with a better purpose, that’s for sure."
Scoring—1. Quad City, Robinson (Stinziani), 3:27. Penalties—Wichita, Trimm (slashing), 4:18; Quad City, Lang (tripping), 12:24.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Hanson (Summers, Inman), 9:40; 3. Quad City, Robinson (Stinziani, Levesque), 16:12. Penalties—Wichita, Summers (hooking), 4:18; Quad City, Aduba (hooking), 11:33; Wichita, Lutz (tripping), 13:15; Wichita, Young (tripping), 17:40; Wichita, Trimm (high sticking), 18:33; Quad City, McGillis (hooking), 19:33.
Scoring—4. Quad City, Hellyer (Lang, Duffy); 15:19. Penalties—Quad City, Matheson (hooking), 7:34; Wichita, Reaney (slashing), 8:04; Quad City, Stanziani (tripping), 11:46.
Power play—Quad City, 0 for 6, Wichita 0 for 5
Shots—Quad City 11-8-6—25; Wichita 8-7-17—32
Saves—Quad City, Murray 31 saves, 32 shots; Wichita, Regan 22-25