Contrary to the first 45 minutes of Sunday’s game against the Thunder, there was actually some fight in Missouri.
There was literal fight — Blake Forsyth got the best of Wichita forward Ian Lowe when the two fought early in the third period — and there was the fight the Mavericks used to avoid a shutout, scoring a pair oflate goals.
The bluster and the discovery of their offense came far too late for the Mavericks. For the second straight night Wichita jumped to a three-goal lead and added on, beating Missouri 6-2 at Intrust Bank Arena.
Wichita became the third CHL team to reach 70 points on the season and pulled to a second-place tie with Fort Worth, trailing Allen by six points with 10 games to play. Allen is the only one of 10 CHL teams to have clinched one of eight playoff spots.
"It’s a man thing," Lowe said. "You don’t want to go down and lose by that many goals. If we’re down 5-0 we still want to get one or two in the net. You don’t want to just let down. Any team is going to fight back when they’re down like that."
Missouri had to fight at the end of the game because its spirit evaporated quickly after the start. Playing its third game in three days in three cities and with a short-handed roster that includes a pair of injured players and one who is suspended, Missouri entered from a point of weakness and the Thunder seized upon it.
Lowe scored Wichita’s first two goals in a 64-second stretch midway through the first and Les Reaney emerged from congestion near the crease to make it 3-0 and send Missouri goalie Mike Clemente to the showers.
"They’re coming in and it’s three games in three nights for both teams with some travel in there, and they had a little bit more travel," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. "Once you get them down, especially in your building, you want to put the gas pedal down."
The first period Sunday played out similarly to the first 20 minutes in Saturday’s win over Bloomington. Not only did Wichita dominate the scoreboard in racing to a 3-0 lead, it held the other team’s offense to impressive levels of ineptitude.
Bloomington managed four shots in the first period on Saturday and it took a major struggle for the Mavericks to match that total on Sunday. Missouri’s first shot came more than 13 minutes, when the Thunder already had a comfortable lead.
The Mavericks feature the league’s leading scorer, Sebastien Thinel, but the Thunder highlighted their lack of depth by coming within less than three minutes of a shutout.
"At home we’ve been coming out real hard," Lowe said. "All year, if we come out with that first goal, it seems to be real good for us. We get that first one and it seems to go a few more after we get the first one. At home, we just want to get the crowd into it and get them behind us right away."
Saturday’s insurance goals against Bloomington came in the third period, when the Thunder stretched to a 6-3 win after the Blaze twice got within one goal of tying the score. Sunday, the Thunder added on before the Mavericks threatened the lead, scoring the first five goals.
The weekend set up for high-octane performances by the Thunder offense. Bloomington allows the second-most goals per game in the CHL and the shorthandedness of Missouri combined with Wichita’s familiarity of the Mavericks increased the likelihood of a high-scoring affair.
Missouri barely held up its end with the two late goals. They followed the fight between the 5-foot-9 Lowe and Forsyth, who’s five inches taller.
The bigger man won that fight, but the bigger, badder team won the game and the season series, with Wichita going 6-1-1 against Missouri and easily capturing the Independence Cup. The trophy goes annually to the team with the best record in the rivalry.
"Right now is the time of year we just want to play good hockey and win," Lowe said. "It obviously feels good to beat them by a few goals, but we just want to get the ‘W’ right now."
Scoring—1. Wichita, Lowe (Lutz, Robinson), 10:46; 2. Wichita, Lowe (Martens, Trimm), 11:50; 3. Wichita, Reaney (Madden, Donaghy), 15:59. Penalties—Missouri, Pszenyczny (slashing), 3:34.
Scoring—4. Wichita, Young PP (Trimm, Robinson), 19:56. Penalties—Wichita, Summers (hooking), 3:47; Missouri, King (unsportsmanlike conduct, obscene language misconduct, no category game misconduct), 19:44.
Scoring—5. Wichita, Painchaud (Summers, Martens), 6:58; 6. Missouri, Dickson (Smith, Forsyth), 17:24; 7. Missouri, Miller (Forsyth, Smith), 17:43; 8. Wichita, Trimm PP (Robinson, Inman), 19:52. Penalties—Wichita, Madden (goalie interference), 2:34; Missouri, Testwuide (tripping), 3:05; Missouri, Forsyth (fighting major), 6:45; Wichita, Lowe (fighting major), 6:45; Missouri, Lavender (slashing), 9:59; Wichita, Young (slashing), 9:59; Missouri, Testwuide (goalie interference), 18:02.
Power play—Missouri 0 for 2, Wichita 2 for 4. Shots—Missouri 4-9-7—20, Wichita 13-9-17—39. Saves—Missouri, Clemente 9 on 12 shots, Daniels 24 on 27 shots; Wichita, Jung 18 on 20 shots.