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Jeffrey Lutz's CHL report (Feb. 5)

  • Published Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, at 8:50 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, at 7:18 a.m.

Fine line in the crease

Deciding on a goalie for a likely trip to the playoffs is a 50-50 proposition for Thunder coach Kevin McClelland.

“I haven’t flipped that coin yet,” McClelland said.

There is little to separate Kevin Regan, who has been the starter most of the season, and Torrie Jung, who has earned more time with a recent six-game winning streak. They have 13 wins apiece and own similar save percentages and goals-against averages.

The experience of Regan, a 28-year-old who has played in the Triple-A American Hockey League and in Europe, might outweigh that of Jung, who recently turned 24. Jung has never been a full-time starter and has participated in one playoff game.

But while Regan offers the presence of a steady veteran, Jung provides the excitement of untapped potential.

“They’re both professional guys and they respect each other’s game,” McClelland said. “Whoever gets the nod is ready to go, and the other guy is ready to get back in there when he needs to, too. It’s probably, since I’ve been coaching, the best tandem that I’ve had that way, that they understand and know what’s best for the team.”

McClelland and the Thunder had the same issue last season. Without a mainstay to back up Adam Russo, Wichita traded for Bryan Hogan, who had struggled in the first part of his rookie season with Dayton.

When he joined the Thunder, however, Hogan’s numbers improved vastly. He outperformed Russo at times and there seemed to be a question about who would get more time in the postseason. That nod when to Russo, and he helped the Thunder to the CHL Finals before suffering a concussion in the championship series.

McClelland isn’t giving anything away regarding how he will plan that situation for this year’s playoffs. But if history is any indication, Regan would be selected because of his experience. Before that, though, McClelland has to divide their time to make sure they both reach the playoffs at their peak.

“You go with the goaltender who is hot,” McClelland said. “The schedule depends on that, too. If you play three (games) in three (nights), you’ve got to make sure that at the beginning of the week you tell your goalies which games they’re playing so they’re ready.”

Jung’s surge has been beneficial for the Thunder in multiple ways. Not only has it revealed his status as Wichita’s second standout goalie, it has allowed Regan to rest.

For most of the season, Regan led CHL goalies in minutes by a wide margin. Since Jung has started most games recently, Regan has fallen to second on that list.

If McClelland has solved playing time strategies for Regan and Jung, a challenge in maintaining both players’ confidence with less-regular use may remain.

“They both put up good numbers and they’ve both played well when they’ve gotten in there,” McClelland said. “They accept the process of it. They know that they’re a good tandem, they back each other up well, and they’re always ready to relieve the other one. …Junger has been playing more lately, and obviously there’s reasons for that.”

Slap shots

•  The CHL trade deadline Monday produced little activity. The only deal involved Bloomington acquiring defenseman Michael Trebish from Denver in exchange for forward Brett Lutes.

•  Thanks to Allen’s six-game losing streak, Wichita is one point behind the Americans for first place. Allen has lost nine of its last 10 overall, while Wichita has won five of six.

Plus

Forward Chad Painchaud returned to the Thunder lineup last week after missing a month due to injury. Painchaud is seventh on the team with 26 points.

Minus

Wichita rookie forward Greger Hanson left Wichita’s most recent game, Saturday in Tulsa, with an apparent leg injury and did not return. His status for the Thunder’s two weekend games is uncertain. Hanson has 44 points, two off the Wichita lead.

Tap of the stick

Wichita’s power play has produced at least two goals in three straight games, including two 3-for-5 performances.

Penalty box

Spongebob Squarepants of Nickelodeon fame will appear at Sunday’s game against Allen. Also on Sunday is the annual Cops vs. Firefighters game starting at 5:30 p.m.

Defining digits

7

With two wins this weekend, McClelland will move into seventh place on the CHL career list with 293 victories.

He said it

“You can ask both goaltenders and they’d both like to play every game. But mentally and physically, you need that rest to recharge the batteries.”

— McClelland on the importance of rest for Regan

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