It was going to happen anyway, now the Thunder has even more incentive.
Coach Kevin McClelland calls the upcoming six days with no game, a rare stretch for the Thunder in a busy early schedule, a “work week.”
A 3-2 overtime loss to Tulsa Saturday night at Intrust Bank Arena didn’t highlight many Wichita weaknesses, but it was the Thunder’s ninth defeat in 10 games and its sixth loss at home, two fewer than last season in 26 fewer games so far.
The loss also had the Thunder embracing a chance to improve – for the roster to become settled and for a chance to clear its collective mind, even if McClelland doesn’t provide much mental relaxation.
Wichita might be eager to play a game after its seventh loss by one goal, but work week awaits. The Thunder dropped into ninth place with a 2-8-4 record.
“I think we’re going to make some roster moves this week and hopefully, as (McClelland) says, trim the fat,” Thunder forward RG Flath said. “We’re getting guys back into the lineup that we’ve been missing right now, and hopefully we can turn the page and get rolling.”
The Thunder beat Tulsa 6-1 on the road on Tuesday and had a 3-0 lead in their Friday game in Wichita before collapsing over the final two periods. The Thunder extended that malaise into the early part of Saturday’s game, as Tulsa took a 2-0 lead in the first period.
As much as Wichita’s players bemoaned an inability to play 60 quality minutes on Friday, it appeared that the Thunder could get by with 40 such minutes on Saturday. Wichita tied it with a pair of power-play goals in the second, goaltender Torrie Jung improved significantly and the Thunder entered the third period on an emotional high.
That has been a familiar story this season. The Thunder has now lost eight games in which it was tied or leading at some point in the third period, but Saturday’s loss didn’t include any damaging breakdowns or the deflating energy that has plagued the team in previous close losses.
In fact, Wichita was in position to win multiple times, getting one-on-one attempts in front of the goal by Nick McParland and by Matt Robinson in the final two minutes.
The play that the Thunder couldn’t make was made by Tulsa 45 seconds into overtime, when former Wichita defenseman Jarred Mohr surged toward the goal to collect a pass from Todd Robinson, sneaking it by Jung. Tulsa’s celebration commenced directly in front of the Thunder bench.
“I think we battled,” McClelland said. “Games like that, where we’re down 2-0, I think you’ve seen it throughout the season where it really affects our guys. I think tonight was positive. We battled back and ultimately lost in overtime. A good play by Jarred Mohr to get to the net, but we just have to contain that guy.
“Those are the little things we’ve got to get better at. It’s been a rough start, and now we get to make some moves, finally.”
McClelland expected roster moves to be made before the weekend is over. They might not provide an immediate cure, but it will give the Thunder a chance to finally establish a routine, one that numerous injuries and frequent transactions have prevented.
“It’s a work week,” McClelland said. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on. There’s a lot of hockey left this year, but we’ve got to start making up some ground and we’ve got to do it right away.”
Scoring—1. Tulsa, Coccimiglio PP (Macaulay, Robinson), 9:19; 2. Tulsa, Beausoleil (Robinson, Fisher), 15:19. Penalties—Wichita, J. Wilson (fighting major), 0:13; Tulsa, Bochek (fighting major), 0:13; Wichita, Booras (slashing), 3:46; Wichita, Robinson (slashing), 8:20; Tulsa, Tallent (fighting major), 15:28; Wichita, Donaghy (fighting major), 15:28; Wichita, Hand (fighting major), 15:30; Tulsa, Beauregard (fighting major), 15:30; Tulsa, Pleskach (hooking), 16:53.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Booras PP (Flath, Dudas), 16:27; 4. Wichita, Dudas PP (Martens, Beauregard), 19:59. Penalties—Tulsa, Cescon (interference), 1:51; Wichita, Dudas (tripping), 2:35; Wichita, Donaghy (interference), 8:31; Tulsa, Mohr (interference), 15:54; Tulsa, Coccimiglio (high sticking), 17:28; Tulsa, Robinson (slashing), 19:43.
Penalty—Wichita, Robinson (high sticking), 6:52.
Scoring—5. Tulsa, Mohr (Robinson), 0:45.
Power play—Tulsa 1-5, Wichita 2-5. Shots—Tulsa 10-10-10-2—32; Wichita 6-18-8-0—32. Saves—Tulsa, Madolora 30-32; Wichita, Jung 29-32.