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End of the line for Wichita Thunder

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 11, 2013, at 11:23 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 12, 2013, at 9:16 a.m.

— Andrew Martens glared back at the Allen Events Center ice one last time as he prepared to walk onto the Thunder’s bus, as if to steel the melancholy image into his mind for the next five months.

Minutes earlier, Allen’s Mike Berube had a much different view.

Martens looked back at the celebration on the ice with a scowl after Allen beat the Thunder 3-2 in overtime of Game 7 of the Central Hockey League Finals, giving the Americans the championship in a game Wichita led with fewer than three minutes to go.

Berube had a front-row seat for the game-winning goal less than three minutes into overtime. He saw Todd Robinson pull up near the corner, wind up and fire a shot toward Thunder goalie Torrie Jung.

It played out almost in slow motion. Robinson had a clear path toward the goal and Jung’s eyes were locked on the player who would determine the fate of the season’s final game. The puck seemed to hang in the air, belying the speed with which it was shot.

It got past Jung, then motion sped up again. Allen’s players hurled their equipment in the air until it and they were bunched up in a heap near the boards. Allen was the CHL champion, and the Thunder was runner-up for the second straight year.

The image looks no better the second time around.

"It sucks," Thunder forward RG Flath said. "We were two minutes away from winning."

Two minutes away from Flath probably earning most valuable player honors for the series and becoming the first true postseason hero for the Thunder since its last CHL championship in 1995.

Flath scored both Thunder goals, including a short-handed score that put Wichita ahead 2-0 in the second period and seemingly deflated the Americans. It was Flath’s ninth goal of the postseason, the highest Thunder total and tied for second among all playoff participants.

"It was a huge goal," Flath said. "We were up 2-nothing, and anytime you can get a two-goal lead, you’ll take it."

The Americans, of course, didn’t share that satisfaction. Wichita became used to the idea that Allen wasn’t going away easily, but it might have been difficult to put those thoughts into action since the Thunder dominated the first 40 minutes of the game.

Almost cruelly, Allen tied the game by turning a Wichita strength against it. Torrie Jung was playing one of the best games in a postseason full of standout performances, and it would have continued if the Americans didn’t discover seemingly the only way to solve Jung — rebounds.

Jarrett Lukin grabbed the first shot that bounced away after a Jung save, getting Allen to within a goal with about 13 minutes to go. Todd Hendrikx tied it with 2:19 to go on another rebound that he pushed through traffic and past Jung.

Thunder players convinced themselves that it was still anybody’s game going into overtime, but it might have been tough to put those thoughts into action since Allen had dominated the previous 20 minutes.

"We were three minutes away from getting where we wanted to go and it didn’t happen," Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. "Once you get to overtime, anything can happen."

In front of 6,125 fans, including many Thunder supporters who made the five-hour drive, Robinson completed his own long, winding season in triumphant fashion and ending the Thunder’s at the other extreme.

Robinson requested his released from Evansville of the ECHL about two months ago and joined Allen to help replace players who departed the Americans when the NHL lockout ended. His game-winning shot lived on at the Allen Event Center about an hour after it occurred, with the final score and 17:12 remaining on the scoreboard.

"I was on the bench," Berube said. "I had a good view. I just saw the net go, and I went insane."

And the shot will drive the Thunder crazy for five more months, until next season begins.

"That was a good playoff run we had," Thunder forward Ian Lowe said. "We just couldn’t put the nail on the coffin at the end."

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First period

Scoring—1. Wichita, Flath (Jung), 6:25. Penalties—Wichita, Lizon (goalie interference), 2:02; Wichita, Madden (roughing), 8:44; Allen, Daniels (roughing), 8:44.

Second period

Scoring—2. Wichita, Flath SH (Painchaud, Martens), 13:38. Penalties—Wichita, Robinson (tripping), 1:12; Wichita, Inman (high sticking), 4:56; Allen, Deitsch (cross checking), 4:56; Allen, Hendrikx (tripping), 9:53; Wichita, Wight (tripping), 12:50.

Third period

Scoring—3. Allen, Lukin (Daniels, Schaafsma), 7:13; 4. Allen, Hendrikx (Kerbashian), 17:41. Penalties—Wichita, Martens (interference), 8:12; Wichita, Inman (cross checking), 12:05; Allen, Robinson (roughing), 12:05.

Overtime

Scoring—5. Allen, Robinson (Montgomery), 2:47. Penalties—None.

Power play—Wichita 0 for 1, Allen 0 for 4. Shots—Wichita 12-4-6-1—23, Allen 6-16-12-3—37. Saves—Wichita, Jung 34 on 37 shots; Allen, Dell 21 on 23 shots.

T—2:41. A—6,125.

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