Friday night’s loss may have hinted at the need for changes. Saturday’s defeat confirmed it.
That was the takeaway from the Wichita Thunder’s 4-3 shootout loss to the defending Central Hockey League champion Allen Americans on Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena. A frenzied third-period comeback erased the Thunder’s 3-0 hole and at least earned the team its first point in the standings, but a fruitless overtime and 2-1 loss in the shootout continued a disappointing opening weekend of 2013-14 season.
“It was a big improvement from last night,” coach Kevin McClelland said. “But I still think some changes have to be made. Personnel changes. I just can’t keep gassing five or six guys.”
Those key contributors kept the Thunder in the game. After giving up three goals in the first two periods, including two on power plays, Wichita got a spark from Nik Yaremchuk’s goal a minute before the second intermission.
“We got a little bit of momentum with that first goal, and that’s what we talked about,” McClelland said. “We took a timeout with five minutes left and said let’s get one before the end of the period. We pride ourselves in that. Since I’ve been here, anyway, we’ve never quit.”
The Thunder carried the momentum into the third, when RG Flath scored his second goal in as many games and Ian Lowe added a power play score three minutes later to tie the game.
“I thought in the third period we improved our intensity and played the way we know we can play,” Flath said. “Obviously we want to win every game, but I feel like we took huge strides in the way we played tonight. Our intensity was much higher. We were creating opportunities, where last night we were real passive.”
But just like Friday’s season-opening loss, the game-winner never came for Wichita despite another strong effort from Thunder goalie Torrie Jung, who made 35 saves, shut out Allen in the final period and overtime and allowed just one even-strength goal.
“He stood on his head again,” Flath said. “He’s been lights out for us the last two games.”
While Jung and the defense kept the Thunder in the game, the offense failed to finish the job, squandering a late power play opportunity in regulation and 31 seconds of a 5-on-3 in the overtime period.
McClelland stuck with the same personnel with each extra scoring opportunity, and the additional ice time may have taken its toll.
“We just needed more depth,” McClelland said. “You don’t want to do that all season. It’s going to be real tough (Sunday) with our third game in two and a half days.”
The two teams travel back to Texas for a Sunday afternoon rematch. Allen beat the Thunder in seven games last spring to claim the CHL championship.
Allen goalie Bryan Pitton made 25 saves before allowing a goal. He stopped 40 of 43 shots and gave up just one goal in the five-round shootout to seal the win.
John Snowden and Matt Robinson traded goals in the third-round of the shootout. Allen’s Kale Kerbashian beat Jung five-hole for the go-ahead score in the fifth and final round, and a backhand attempt from Wichita’s Jesse Dudas flew over the net to give the Americans the win.
Scoring—1. Allen, Bootland (Lachance), 8:23. Penalties—Wichita, Gruenke (interference), 4:44; Allen, Ty. Ludwig (tripping), 9:31; Allen, Hendrikx (slashing), 11:25; Wichita, Gruenke (roughing), 18:16; Allen, Snowden (roughing), 18:16; Wichita, Flath (high sticking), 20:00.
Scoring—2. Allen, Bootland (Ty. Ludwig, Kerbashian), 8:13; 3. Allen, Lessard (Rouleau, Lukin), 10:05; 4. Wichita, Yaremchuk (Booras, Dudas), 19:01. Penalties—Wichita, Wilson (tripping), 7:05; Wichita, Dudas (elbowing), 8:07; Allen, Hendrikx (slashing), 10:24; Allen, Ty. Ludwig (interference), 11:51.
Scoring—5. Wichita, Flath (Summers, Martens), 6:28; 6. Lowe (Hostetter, Summers), 9:29. Penalties—Allen, Ty. Ludwig (high sticking), 1:19; Allen, Lessard (delay of game), 7:32; Allen, Tr. Ludwig (interference); Wichita, Wight (hooking); Allen, Berube (slashing), 16:49. Wichita, Martens (high sticking), 19:57.
Scoring—none. Penalties—Allen, Schaafsma (high sticking), 0:47. Allen, Tr. Ludwig (hooking), 1:16.
Scoring—Allen, Snowden; Wichita, Robinson; Allen, Kerbashian.
Power play—Allen 2 for 6, Wichita 1 for 10. Shots—Allen 8-20-8-2-1—39, Wichita 14-13-11-5-0—43. Saves—Allen, Pitton 40 on 43 shots; Wichita, Jung 35-38.