There were probably several 11-second stretches the Thunder wished it could have done over in order to avoid overtime on Friday night against Missouri.
The mistakes and letdowns that led to an extra period also built toward perhaps the most exciting 11 seconds of the Thunder’s hockey season.
Greger Hanson, Wichita’s high-scoring rookie, took a pass from Kevin Young and raced down the left side, creating a breakaway opportunity that he converted 11 seconds into overtime, giving the Thunder a 5-4 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
Hanson’s goal was the cap to what at one time appeared to be a run-of-the-mill Thunder victory that nearly turned, when Missouri took a 4-3 lead late in the third, into a potentially devastating loss. It became maybe Wichita’s most exhilarating win.
"It would have definitely been a tough loss with the way we came into (the third period) with a two-goal lead," Hanson said. "We let go of our game for a little bit for a 10-minute stretch or so, but we came back. It makes us stronger to come back in these type of games."
Wichita owned a two-goal lead to start the third period, on its way to an easy win. But those ideas were dashed when Missouri’s Sebastien Thinel scored two goals in a two-minute stretch.
Going from comfortably ahead to tied and without momentum sent Wichita into a brief malaise, but the Thunder pulled out of it with physical play, gaining energy on a Nathan Lutz hit of a Missouri player against the boards that enlivened the crowd.
The Thunder went back into defensive mode when Les Reaney drew an elbowing penalty with less than seven minutes to go. It almost made the difference in the game, when Missouri scored on the power play about 90 seconds later.
"I don’t think it cost the team," Reaney said. "It’s a team sport. Penalties like that, a clean hit like that, guys kill those (penalties) all the time and unfortunately we didn’t kill that one. It’s part of the game and it happens all the time."
Reaney earned a reprieve when the same thing happened to Missouri minutes later, when Ryan Jardine drew a high-sticking call that gave the desperate Thunder its best chance to tie.
Ian Lowe, Wichita’s best power-play scorer, scored the tying goal, setting off a frenzy during the final minutes that included several near-miss scoring chances and impressive saves by Wichita’s Kevin Regan and Missouri’s Mike Clemente.
"It’s tough being up 3-1 and being down 4-3," Reaney said. "But it’s a 60-minute game and tonight it was 60 minutes and whatever, 15 seconds I guess. You don’t quit until the last buzzer goes, and the last goal by Greger was beautiful. Two points (in the standings) is two points, and we’ll take it."
The Thunder survived the frantic final minutes and though it was prepared for an exhausting overtime, it was hoping for a quick finish. Hanson provided it with his 13th goal, second on the team.
Wichita was off for five days between games, matching its longest layoff, and played with the energy of a rested team. The Thunder built two-goal leads in the first and second periods, but lost the edge briefly in the final period before gaining it back.
Hanson completed that effort, reducing a 20-minute third-period physical battle into a graceful goal finished after he outraced Missouri’s defense.
"You can always end a game," Hanson said. "Right off the face-off, guys aren’t really on their toes, they don’t expect things to happen that quick. I think that was to my advantage right there."
Scoring — 1. Wichita, Donaghy (Reaney, Boogaard), 9:41; 2. Wichita, Griffith (Flath, Martens), 13:35; 3. Missouri, Pszenyczny PP (Thinel, Smith), 16:48. Penalties — Wichita, Flath (hooking), 4:07; Wichita, Hanson (too many men bench minor), 16:39.
Scoring — 4. Wichita, Young PP (Lowe, Martens), 6:39. Penalties — Missouri, Simoes (holding), 6:13; Wichita, Madden (kneeing), 7:21; Missouri, Tochkin (too many men bench minor), 18:17.
Scoring — 5. Missouri, Thinel (Courtney, Pszenyczny), 1:36; 6. Missouri, Thinel (Pszenyczny, Courtney), 3:35; 7. Missouri, Miller PP (Pszenyczny, Thinel), 14:47; 8. Wichita, Lowe PP (Martens, Hanson), 18:12. Penalties — Missouri, Hayes (high sticking), 5:48; Wichita, Reaney (elbowing), 13:20; Missouri, Jardine (high sticking), 16:49.
Scoring — 9. Wichita, Hanson (Young, Flath), 0:11. Penalties — None.
Power play — Missouri 2 for 4, Wichita 2 for 4
Shots — Missouri 6-7-10-0 — 23, Wichita 11-3-12-1 — 27
Saves — Missouri, Clemente 22 on 27 shots; Wichita, Regan 19-23
T — 2:38. A — 5,272.