Hockey defensemen often say that when an opponent scores, it’s akin to a personal insult.
The utilization of the desperation behind that philosophy was exhibited Sunday, in the Thunder’s 3-1 win over Quad City at Intrust Bank Arena, by Wichita’s Travis Wight.
There was little Wight wouldn’t do to stop the Mallards from scoring. As a stay-at-home defenseman not typically part of Wichita’s offensive rush, Wight takes pride in the specialization of his role. That was evident Sunday as he chased down forwards and frantically flicked puts out from near the crease, just before they could reach Thunder goalie Kevin Regan.
Wight’s efforts were supplemented by offense from Neil Trimm, who finished off a six-point weekend with a first-period goal, and by a two-goal second period from Wes Reaney. Wichita rebounded from a loss to formerly first-place Allen on Saturday to move a point ahead of the Americans in the standings.
"I’m not a big (scorer), I don’t get points, but I take it personally when I get scored on," Wight said. "I feel like I let the guys down, which isn’t necessarily always the case, but that’s still how I feel. I try to keep the puck out — I got in front of a couple and I got one in the head tonight, I think. I just try to do everything possible to keep the puck out of the net."
Quad City scored a third-period goal on a power play that may have damaged the ego of Wight, who wasn’t on the ice at the time, but didn’t threaten the outcome or the excellence of Wichita’s defensemen and of Regan.
The Mallards are a challenging team to defend because, while their offense may not be as organized as some of the CHL’s contenders, their style is to get as many shots to the net as possible.
Wight, for one, enjoys those kind of opponents because they force him to be active.
"They’re not as skillful as say the Denver and the Allen teams, but I think they make up for it in their hard work," Wight said. "Whenever we’ve played them this year, we have to be ready. The defensive zone is big because they just move around, move around. It’s a good challenge, but if we want to get back to the Finals and win, that’s going to prepare us for that."
Quad City may have been the perfect opponent for the Thunder at the end of a three-game weekend and following a Saturday loss on the road.
Instead of dragging through their third straight game, Wichita’s alertness was forced by the Mallards’ typically fast pace. Quad City outshot the Thunder 11-6 in the first period, but Wichita got a respite from an otherwise slow start with a goal by Trimm.
The Thunder took the shot advantage in the second period and made it count with Reaney’s two goals and the energy of the defensemen that kept the shutout preserved temporarily.
"When you get that second goal and get that two-goal lead it kind of puts that doubt in their mind," Reaney said. "It gives the boys a little confidence and you just kind of relax and quit holding the stick so tight. We’ve been on the other end, being down 2-0, and it sucks."
Reaney has seven goals since joining the Thunder in a November trade with Rapid City. They come in bunches — he has three two-goal games but has only scored in consecutive games once.
"I’ve been asking myself the same thing — it would be nice to get a couple in a row here," Reaney said. "But I’ll take them as they come and next weekend hopefully I can put a couple multi-goal games together."
Scoring—1. Wichita, Trimm (Lowe, Lutz), 7:27. Penalties—Quad City, Levesque (too many men bench minor), 3:26.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Reaney (Flanigan, Mohr), 6:26; 3. Wichita, Reaney (Flanigan, Young), 7:49. Penalties—Wichita, Wight (tripping), 11:05; Quad City, Aduba (high sticking), 14:49.
Scoring—4. Quad City, Levesque PP (Duffy, McMillan), 5:00. Penalties—Quad City, Aduba (fighting major), 0:20; Wichita, Lizon (fighting major), 0:20; Wichita, Young (cross checking), 3:23; Quad City, Perdicaro (hooking), 15:11.
Power play—Quad City 1 for 2, Wichita 0 for 3
Shots—Quad City 11-9-7—27, Wichita 6-16-6—28
Saves—Quad City, Murray 25 saves on 28 shots; Wichita, Regan 26-27.