Forgive Wichita Thunder fans if only a couple of them tossed their hats to the ice when forward Greger Hanson scored his third goal of the game.
It was a bit hard to keep track.
Hanson’s natural hat trick and the four other goals from three of his teammates gave the Thunder a 7-0 win over the Denver Cutthroats Saturday night in the first of two games between the teams this weekend at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Thunder (24-14-3) tallied its largest margin of victory this season by exposing a struggling Denver (21-16-4) defense that allowed at least six goals for the third time in its last five games.
It also firmly erased the “snake-bitten” feeling that accompanied the team during their recent three-game losing streak.
“It’s nice after the last couple of games we’ve had at home,” coach Kevin McClelland said. “I think we owed the fans something like this.”
Hanson’s first career hat trick came with the game already heavily leaning Wichita’s way. Matt Robinson and RG Flath each used the boards behind the net to score a pair of first period goals. Flath saw a shot deflect off the boards, then used his back skate to redirect the puck into the crease before slamming it home for a 2-0 lead.
“My goal was just a fluke bounce off the boards. I kicked it out and was able to stuff it in,” said Flath, who also scored in the third period on a give-and-go with Matt Summers. “We just got good bounces tonight, and when you work hard that’s usually when things start to go your way.”
Ian Lowe carried the momentum over from the first period with a goal 41 seconds into the second.
Hanson got his first goal 16 seconds after Lowe – the fastest two goals scored this season – and blew the game open with two more over the next six minutes.
Hanson, now well into his rookie year, moved into a tie for the team lead with his 17th, 18th and 19th goals. They’ve come on a team-high 189 shots – a stat McClelland said pleases him.
“Every night he’s putting seven or eight shots on net. He’s almost at 200 shots and that’s got to be pretty close to tops in the league, that’s for sure,” McClelland said. “He’s hungry. He’s coming into this league as a rookie, and he’s hungry to score goals.”
Hanson, who added two assists for a season-high five points, said he’s growing more comfortable with taking shots when the opportunity arises.
“I’m not out there to take stupid shots, but I shoot the puck when I get in a scoring chance,” he said. “I think that’s something coach has been preaching a lot, too. I just try to not pass up an opportunity and tonight it worked.”
Denver goalie Kent Patterson was pulled after Hanson’s first goal gave Wichita four scores on 13 shots, but backup Kieran Millan didn’t fare much better, giving up three goals on 14 shots.
Wichita goalie Torrie Jung needed just 14 saves for his sixth career shutout and second of the season. He won his third consecutive game with the help of a Thunder defense that allowed just one shot on goal through the game’s first 16 minutes.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Robinson (Trimm, Lowe), 6:04; 2. Wichita, Martens (Hanson, Wright), 8:56. Penalties—Wichita, Inman (hooking), 1:41; Denver, Cacaro (holding stick), 11:20; Wichita, Mohr (interference), 15:54.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Lowe (Trimm, Wright), 0:41; 4. Wichita, Hanson (Flath, Lutz), 0:57; 5. Wichita, Hanson (Flath, Inman), 3:47; 6. Hanson (Mohr, Summers), 6:41. Penalties—Denver, Chabot (boarding), 2:35; Denver, Towns (fighting) (major), 2:35; Wichita, Boogaard (instigator), 2:35; Wichita, Boogaard (fighting) (major), 2:35; Wichita, Boogaard (fighting) (instigator) (misconduct), 2:35; Wichita, Summers (holding), 4:17; Denver, Coles (fighting) (major), 6:46; Wichita, Donaghy (fighting) (major), 6:46; Denver, Chabot (fighting) (major), 7:00; Wichita, Lutz (fighting) (major), 7:00; Wichita, Flath (interference), 11:36; Wichita, Donaghy (hooking), 18:40; Denver, Cacaro (holding stick), 18:40.
Scoring—7. Wichita, Flath (Hanson, Summers), 6:59. Penalties—Wichita, Hanson (high sticking), 8:52; Denver, Lutes (slashing), 13:38; Denver, Lutes (abuse of officials) (misconduct), 13:38; Wichita, Lutz (hooking), 14:50.
Power play—Denver 0 for 6, Wichita 0 for 2. Shots—Denver 4-6-4—14, Wichita 11-9-7—27. Saves—Denver, Patterson 9 on 13 shots, Millan 11-14; Wichita, Jung 14-14.