When a Thunder power play ended early in the second period Friday night against Fort Worth, Wichita had taken 16 shots, 13 more than the Brahmas.
That signified how difficult it was, at that point, to get a shot past Fort Worth goalie Kristofer Westblom and the degree to which the Thunder was dominating the game.
Once Wichita finally scored against Westblom, the domination continued and Fort Worth no longer could fall back on a hot goalie. The Thunder added three more goals against Westblom, cruising to a 4-0 win at Intrust Bank Arena in its final home game before Christmas.
Wichita has played Fort Worth in four of its last five games and owns a 5-1 record this season against the Brahmas. The only Fort Worth win came Wednesday in Texas, a convincing victory that Wichita negated with an equally impressive performance.
"We had a really bad day in Texas there," said Thunder forward Matt Summers, who opened the scoring in the second with what proved to be the game-winning goal. "That’s the good thing about this sport, you can turn around the next day and get a chance to redeem yourself against the very same team."
The first period offered little excitement as Fort Worth attempted to slow down the Thunder by playing what at times equated to man-to-man defense, shadowing Wichita forwards as they approached the net.
Wichita outshot Fort Worth 9-2 in the first but got few unimpeded looks, instead settling for shots from outside typical scoring range. The Thunder didn’t make it easy on Westblom, who delivered some showy saves, but it wasn’t making him uncomfortable, either.
It seemed that the Thunder’s best chances to score hinged on the ability to rein in rebounds, to congest the area around the crease to disrupt Westblom’s vision, or to rely on its superior speed to create breakaways.
The Thunder’s first two goals fell into the latter category. Summers outraced Fort Worth defenders for a one-on-one chance that he converted, then Todd Griffith did the same later in the second after a streak down the left side created space.
"It’s always good to get the first one," Summers said. "Even that second one was good, to get insurance. But even if we didn’t get the second goal we had enough to win as it was because we were playing really stingy. We weren’t giving them much."
Wichita’s superiority was evident before it unknotted the scoreless game, but after the goal the Thunder found even more energy. Fort Worth was forced to play more aggressively once it found itself in chase mode, and that brought out a fierceness in the Thunder not always called upon.
The Thunder overmatched Fort Worth physically and the Brahmas didn’t appear game for the challenged. Dustin Donaghy, Ian Lowe and Erick Lizon were among the Thunder players who delivered forceful hits against the boards, and Wichita also maintained its alertness on offense.
Ryan Flanigan scored for Wichita early in the third and Neil Trimm, the Thunder’s leading scorer, added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds.
"Anytime you get to play in a game like this, where we seem to play the complete game, it’s always nice," Torrie Jung said. "That’s ideally how we want to play most of our games."
Jung, Wichita’s backup behind Kevin Regan, made the most of a rare starting chance. He faced few shots early but picked up his own pace when Fort Worth was forced to pick up its own.
After the early-second-period power play, Jung saw 20 shots and stopped them all, achieving perfection in a game in which the Thunder neared it.
"Anytime everybody else is going, it obviously motivates you," Jung said. "With the exception of not scoring in the first, we really did everything right. We were defensively sound all night, no rebound chances, and we got a couple goals near the end there. It was good."
Scoring—None. Penalties—Fort Worth, Woollard (goalie interference), 1:31; Wichita, Donaghy (slashing), 4:50; Fort Worth, Hodge (tripping), 11:04; Wichita, Donaghy (boarding), 15:23; Fort Worth, Klempa (high sticking double minor), 16:18.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Summers (Griffith, Lutz), 6:47; 2. Wichita, Griffith (Wight, Jung), 18:46. Penalties—Fort Worth, Pallis (hooking), 2:55.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Flanigan (Lizon, Hanson), 14:23; 4. Wichita, Trim SH empty-net (Young, Martens), 19:36. Penalties—Fort Worth, Hogg (hooking), 2:55; Wichita, Flath (diving), 2:55; Wichita, Donaghy (boarding major, game misconduct), 18:26.
Power play—Fort Worth 0 for 3, Wichita 0 for 5
Shots—Fort Worth 2-9-12—23, Wichita 9-15-7—31
Saves—Fort Worth, Westblom 27 saves, 30 shots; Wichita, Jung 23-23