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RG Flath hopes Thunder’s fortunes are about to turn

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at 6:54 p.m.

Photos

Quad City at Thunder

When: 7:05 p.m. Friday

Where: Intrust Bank Arena

Records: Quad City 16-8-7, Thunder 12-17-4

Radio: KKLE, 1550-AM

If the Thunder is involved in a promotional campaign or community initiative, chances are forward RG Flath is part of it. Now Flath is trying to again become just as easy to spot on the ice.

After two standout seasons with the Thunder that ended in trips to the Central Hockey League Finals, Flath has seen his fortunes reverse along with the team’s. Flath has 15 points in 32 games, numbers that are magnified because of the connection between Flath’s production and the team’s success.

Like most of his teammates, Flath was hurt by early roster upheaval, caused mostly by injuries, that forced nearly constant changes in lines and linemates. Flath appears to be starting to settle in, but he could use a game that cements that trend.

“I’ve been disappointed with my season so far,” Flath said. “Most of us have been — it’s not the season that we’re looking for. But we still have half a season left, and hopefully we can turn it around and have a great second half.

“We haven’t really been lucky with bounces so far this year, but a season is a long time and you just try to eliminate (inconsistency). It seems like we’ve just had a lot of valleys this year.”

Flath joined the Thunder about a third of the way through the 2011-12 as a journeyman, having played for seven teams over the previous five-plus seasons and never truly establishing expectations for his performance.

The first handful of Flath’s 42 games with the Thunder that year seemed like a surprise, but by the time it was over, and especially when Flath followed up with a strong 2012-13, he proved that it was for real. In 106 games, Flath totaled 101 points and a plus-50 rating while playing more aggressively than top-line scorers typically do.

This season, similar stats were expected of Flath, but he hasn’t escaped the Thunder’s collective malaise. As he’s labored to solve his scoring struggles, the 29-year-old Flath has tried to affect the game in other ways.

“A lot of times, numbers are thrown out and it doesn’t always necessarily mean that guys are always doing the right things,” Flath said. “Face-offs, since I play center, that’s another big thing I try to concentrate on. As long as I’m winning draws or having decent success in the circle, that’s one thing that hopefully translates into some kind of better play for us.”

In past seasons, Flath has had a knack for scoring in bunches and creating team momentum, like when he scored a hat trick in the Thunder’s first postseason game two years ago, or last year when Wichita won 12 of 13 games in which he scored during one stretch.

The Thunder has 12 wins in 33 tries this season, and Flath has scored in six. He has no multi-point games, so a breakthrough game for Flath — say, two goals and an assist — could signal the same for the Thunder, which is desperate for a spark.

“I don’t think anyone would turn one of those type of games down, especially this year,” Flath said. “It just seems like everything has been a little bit tougher to get, either assists or goals. I’d absolutely love one of those games.”

Flath has six points and a plus-3 rating in his last 11 games, suggesting comfort within a recently solidified line that includes Matt Summers and Nick McParland.

The Park City, Utah, native has also grown comfortable in Wichita, where he spent last summer and where has become the face of the team in a promotional and community-wide sense.

“It’s an honor,” Flath said. “It’s more (about) what I can do for the community, help those that are maybe a little less fortunate. We went to the hospital yesterday and dropped off teddy bears to sick kids. That’s more of where I get enjoyment from and personal satisfaction, is bringing smiles to other people.”

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