The typical scene played out after the Thunder beat Allen 5-1 Tuesday at Intrust Bank Arena. Loud music — "Whistle" by Flo Rida is always on the postgame-victory playlist — and Wichita players who couldn’t keep from heartily drifting to other lockers to congratulate their teammates.
That was the immediate aftermath of Wichita’s second straight dominating performance over a team whose lead in the Central Hockey League standings shrinks with each loss to the the Thunder. The complete fallout might not occur until April, when a possible playoff series occurs between Wichita and the Americans.
The Thunder has outscored Allen 9-2 in the last two games, and if Wichita can continue to display its superiority over the only team above it in the standings, it could carry a mental advantage into their postseason meetings.
Wichita had plenty to overcome Tuesday in the makeup for a game postponed Dec. 26 due to inclement weather near Allen. Goalkeeper Torrie Jung left in the first period after an Allen shot hit him in the throat. He went to the hospital, but coach Kevin McClelland said Jung is expected to be OK.
Jung wrote on Twitter Tuesday night: "Took a solid slap-shot to the throat, and will spend the night in (intensive care). Should be ok though!"
Grant Rollheiser, a rookie from Boston University, played well in Jung’s place, saving 27 of 28 shots. Chad Painchaud, the Thunder’s hottest forward, notched two goals and an assist in a win that brought Wichita to within a point of Allen in the standings. They play again Friday in Texas.
"It’s obviously good to get some wins," Painchaud said. "They’re going to be thinking about that in the back of their head. It’s huge because we’re only a point behind them now. The next game on Friday is going to be huge, so we’ve got to keep playing the way we are."
Wichita’s 4-1 win on Sunday was highlighted by a three-goal third period in which all the scoring was done on the power play. On Tuesday the Thunder’s thrashing was more thorough.
Allen tied it 1-1 in the second, but two goals by the Thunder before the end of the period seemed to take the life from the Americans. Wichita added two goals in the third, disorienting Allen to the point that it made two goalie changes in the final 20 minutes.
The third period was the manifestation of the tone set by Matt Robinson in the opening seconds, when he cross-checked an Allen player. That drew an early penalty, but Wichita held the advantage in aggressiveness for much of the game.
"We knew we had to come out with a strong third like we did in the last game," Painchaud said. "We just had to keep going, staying on their (defense), and keep getting pucks deep. I think that’s what we did."
Wichita may have played with more energy to protect a goalie with little experience, but Rollheiser soon proved that he didn’t need the boost. Though Jung played slightly more than six minutes, Rollheiser didn’t face a shot in the first period.
That trend changed in the second, but other than a second-period goal by Allen’s Jarret Lukin, Rollheiser proved ready for his 21st professional game. He stabilized the goalie spot temporarily, but Wichita, already without Kevin Regan, may have to scramble to find a new backup if Jung misses any games.
"It’s not the easiest thing going in cold," Rollheiser said. "I felt pretty good. I try to come to the rink every day, even when I’m not playing, ready to play. I was nice and relaxed, and I actually felt really confident going in there."
Painchaud has scored 13 points in his last six games, making up for lost time as he recently returned from a month-long injury. Like Painchaud, RG Flath has a six-game scoring streak and Wichita has won three straight.
The Thunder has also won three in a row against the Americans. If the playoffs began today, the bracket would set up so that the teams could only meet in the championship round.
"We’ve still got a lot of work before we can even talk about the postseason," McClelland said. "But it was a good effort by our club the last couple nights."
Scoring—1. Wichita, Painchaud (Summers, Martens), 7:52. Penalties—Wichita, Robinson (cross checking), 0:08; Wichita, Reaney (unsportsmanlike conduct), 2:56; Allen, Hendrikx (cross checking), 7:52; Allen, Ludwig (cross checking), 12:24.
Scoring—2. Allen, Lukin (Schaafsma, Maiani), 4:42; 3. Wichita, Flath (Summers, Painchaud), 14:36; 4. Wichita, Trimm (Young, Lutz), 19:12. Penalties—Wichita, Madden (delay of game), 5:45; Wichita, Reaney (roughing), 5:45; Allen, Hendrikx (delay of game), 5:45; Wichita, Lutz (cross checking), 10:29.
Scoring—5. Wichita, Lowe (Trimm, Mohr), 8:23; 6. Wichita, Painchaud (Summers, Flath), 9:35. Penalties—Allen, Lukin (slashing), 1:29; Wichita, Reaney (hooking), 13:26; Allen, Kerbashian (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:45; Wichita, Lowe (hooking), 15:33; Wichita, Painchaud (fighting major), 16:25; Allen, Berube (fighting major), 16:25.
Power play—Allen 0 for 6, Wichita 0 for 4.
Shots—Allen 4-16-12—32, Wichita 12-12-12—36. Saves—Allen, Dell 26 on 30 shots, Silverthorn 5-6; Wichita, Jung 4-4 Rollheiser 27-28.