Flath fits well
RG Flath was an important player for the CHL teams he played for before Wichita — he had a plus-nine rating for Corpus Christi in 2009-10 and a 40-point season for Mississippi the following season.
Since Flath joined the Thunder one-third of the way through last season, however, he has been perhaps the team’s most important player. As part of a line that included seasoned forwards Thomas Beauregard and Alex Bourret, Flath found immediate scoring opportunities and delivered 39 points in 42 games.
Flath’s scoring hasn’t been as consistent this year — he had one goal in 12 games between Oct. 26 and Nov. 20 — but his production has been just as crucial to the Thunder’s success. Wichita went 17-2-1 in games last season when he scored a goal or multiple points, and its record under those parameters this year is 6-1.
Like many Wichita players in coach Kevin McClelland’s two-plus seasons, Flath has thrived in a system that highlights balanced scoring and utilizes a quick pace. He’s on pace to top many of his career bests, adapting well to his expanded responsibilities.
“I guess I did expect, coming into this season, to have a good year,” said Flath, a 28-year-old forward. “I didn’t know I’d be that important. I think it’s kind of a coincidence that it’s 6-1, but it’s important to contribute as much as you can offensively.”
Joining the line with French-Canadians Beauregard and Bourret, two of Wichita’s top scorers last season, allowed Flath to ease into the offense but it also enabled him to hit the ground running. With defenses focusing mostly on Beauregard and Bourret, Flath had to make the most of his relatively limited scoring chances.
Flath thrived on that line, scoring 23 goals on 91 shots for a percentage, .253, nearly double his previous best. This season, Flath’s percentage is down due to volume of shots and the fact that, on a line with Matt Summers and Greger Hanson, Flath needs to shoot more.
While Flath might not be as efficient as he was last season, all of his vital numbers — goals, assists, plus-minus rating — are in-line with or on the way toward exceeding his 2011-12 marks.
“It’s kind of like that whole philosophy, you don’t score if you don’t shoot,” Flath said. “I think last year, a couple times, I might have gotten in a little bit easier because the whole team was focusing on Bourret and Beauregard. That kind of left me open a little bit. This year, teams are focusing on me, Summers and Hanson, so I’m just trying to shoot as much as possible.”
Flath was recently named the CHL player of the week after scoring five points in the Thunder’s three games. Flath had another five-point, three-game stretch to start the month and he scored six points in Wichita’s first three games.
Those nine games have yielded 16 of Flath’s 17 points. A balanced attack can sometimes hamper momentum, but with Flath as its stabilizer and occasional leader, Wichita’s offense has scored three or more goals 11 times in 17 games.
“(McClelland) really likes guys that work hard,” Flath said. “That’s one thing that you can control, is how hard you work tonight. For some reason, it’s worked pretty well for myself.”
• Wichita’s four-game winning streak has vaulted it into second place in the CHL, with 22 points. The Thunder trails Allen by three points and is one ahead of Bloomington. Each of the league’s 10 teams has earned at least 14 points.
• Allen’s 15-2-1 record may be sustainable because of the Americans’ schedule difficulty. Allen has gone 7-1-1 away from home and its opponents own a 42-40-13 record. Allen and Wichita have played the same opponents with one exception — only the Thunder has met Rapid City. They haven’t played each other and neither has played Denver. The first meeting between Allen and the Thunder is Dec. 8 in Texas.
Newcomer Todd Griffith scored in his first game with Wichita, netting a goal in Wichita’s win against Fort Worth on Saturday. Wichita has added three forwards in-season, and all have scored a goal in their third game or sooner.
Durability may become an issue for Wichita goalie Kevin Regan. He has played nearly 666 minutes, a total nearly 60 minutes higher than Rapid City’s Tim Boron. Regan and Boron are the only goalies with more than 600 minutes played.
TAP OF THE STICK
If Travis Wight enters Friday’s game at Denver it will be his 150th consecutive regular-season game for Wichita. Current Thunder assistant coach Jason Duda holds the record with 225.
Wichita has four players on injured reserve — Aaron Boogaard (7-day) and Dustin Donaghy, Jarred Mohr (15-day) and Matt Tassone (30-day).
Points this season for Hanson, which leads CHL rookies
HE SAID IT
“(McClelland) let us know that what he expects from us is more. I feel like we got the message and we brought it these last four games. Hopefully guys don’t deter off the path and we keep going strong.”
— Flath on Wichita’s winning streak