The game was over, just not in the way Jon Madden was expecting.
Madden anticipated a game misconduct penalty — and an automatic ejection — when he checked St. Charles’ Andrew Conboy into the boards after the whistle on an icing call.
There was a penalty, but it was in the aftermath of that play when the Chill bench complained about no call on Madden. Wichita’s brilliant power-play unit scored seconds later, and the Thunder eventually completed a rally from a two-goal deficit to win 5-2 on Sunday at Intrust Bank Arena.
The win was the Thunder’s third in three days, its first such streak since last December 14-16, and eighth in 11 games after Wichita won three of its first 18 contests. A day after struggling against the Chill, the Thunder enacted a recently discovered confidence to overwhelm St. Charles over the final 30 minutes.
Madden’s hit came near the beginning of Wichita’s attack, leading to tangible results to which he offered a contribution, scoring his second goal to tie it 2-2 in the third.
“That definitely wasn’t my intention,” Madden said of the momentum the Thunder found from his hit on Conboy. “You definitely expect the worst. I think he was trying to draw a penalty — I kind of got him off to the side and I don’t think it was as bad as it looked.”
Madden of course couldn’t have projected what followed, especially since he figured he’d be banished, but any way to get Wichita’s power-play tandem onto the ice has to appear somewhat orchestrated given the group’s production.
The Thunder’s offensive balance can be a hindrance at times when no go-to player emerges in a crucial situation, but on the power play Wichita boasts complementary pieces that almost never distract from one another.
Forwards Matt Robinson, Jon Booras and Ian Lowe, Wichita’s power-play specialist, play on the same line when Wichita is at even strength, so their collective chemistry is accented with the one-man advantage. Also, a trio of defensemen who rotate between two spots — Jesse Dudas, Andrew Martens and Mike Wilson — are efficient scorers and facilitators from the point.
The stable produced a pair of goals Sunday, raising Wichita’s league-leading power-play percentage above 22 percent.
“You’ve got the little workhorse, (Lowe), who goes in there and sticks his nose in as a little guy for all the greasy goals,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. “Then you’ve got the big bombs at the point; Robinson, when he gets free, he can score, and Booras is a heck of a playmaker. When he gets overlooked, he can score.”
Madden’s hit on Conboy was the latest tool the Thunder has used to quickly take over a game. In each of Thunder’s last five wins, a combined 26-8 thrashing of St. Charles (three times), Tulsa and Arizona, Wichita has scored two goals in no more than three minutes at some point during the game.
The Thunder had two such barrages Sunday, stemming from the discovery of the confidence that allowed Wichita to begin dominating the overmatched Chill.
Saturday, St. Charles was successful in dragging out a slow-paced, plodding game that forced the Thunder to score twice in the third to mask its previous blemishes. Sunday, Wichita’s aggressiveness started in the middle of the second with production not too far behind — the Thunder outshot St. Charles 46-21 but didn’t take the lead until the final nine minutes.
“We just stuck with it,” McClelland said. “We got a few timely goals from some key guys, and that was huge. …You want to be the team that can do that. The worst thing you can do after you score a goal is to go out and have a letdown. That’s what a lot of teams do, and that’s their Achilles’ heel. And that’s what happened to us previous to this run we’ve been on.”
Scoring—1. St. Charles, Conboy (Perdicaro), 18:57. Penalties—Wichita, Walker (cross checking), 2:47; Wichita, Robinson (high sticking), 7:13; St. Charles, Anthony (tripping), 10:58.
Scoring—2. St. Charles, Perdicaro (OKane, Conboy), 15:29; 3. Wichita, Lowe PP (Robinson, Booras), 17:56. Penalties—St. Charles, Hlinka (roughing), 12:43; St. Charles, Strathman (abuse of officials bench minor), 17:36.
Scoring—4. Wichita, Madden (McParland), 0:33; 5. Wichita, Dudas PP (M. Wilson, Flath), 11:15; 6. Wichita, Summers (McParland, Walker), 16:41; 7. Wichita, Booras empty-net (Nelson), 19:37. Penalties—Wichita, Flath (roughing), 3:13; St. Charles, Strathman (holding stick), 6:32; St. Charles, MacIntyre (tripping), 9:41; Wichita, Flath (tripping), 17:13.
Power play—St. Charles 0-4, Wichita 2-5. Shots—St. Charles 10-4-7—21, Wichita 12-18-16—46. Saves—St. Charles, Lundin 41-45; Wichita, Nelson 19-21.