The Thunder has been inconsistent, at best, in achieving one of the most basic objectives of hockey – get the puck toward the net. Turns out, Wichita was just skipping a step.
In a 7-1 win over Quad City Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena, Thunder players first got the puck to the player in best position to get it to the net, rather than relying on individual playmaking.
Crisp, precise passing, starting with the first goal when a falling Jesse Dudas shuffled the puck to a perfectly positioned Matt Summers, led Wichita to its most efficient showing of the season. It also offered more evidence that the Thunder is best against teams that play aggressively on offense.
Dudas and Jon Booras, Wichita’s top two scorers after playing together in Bloomington last season, each had two goals, and nine other Thunder players scored at least one point in Wichita’s second game in two weeks and first of seven over the next 12 days.
“We’ve got some chemistry starting,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. “We didn’t have certain guys in the lineup at the beginning of the year, and (Tomas) Klempa was out for an extended period of time. We’re sort of set in our lines – we’ll still tinker with them, but guys are getting used to each other and things are starting to work.”
Wichita scored two goals on the power play, where passing ability is a crucial asset, and where the Thunder stacks its best playmakers, such as Dudas, who scored two extra-man goals on Friday.
A man-advantage wasn’t necessary for the Thunder to play unselfish but systematic hockey. Superior passing led to 2-on-1 breaks, and extended possessions helped the Thunder create traffic near the goal – like when Dudas got the puck through a cluster of players to score his first goal, Wichita’s fourth, in the second period.
Joining Dudas and Booras as multi-point scorers were Klempa, Ian Lowe, Matt Robinson and Andrew Martens.
“We’ve got guys who can score goals – we kind of haven’t been scoring too many,” Dudas said. “We’ve scored here and there, but if everyone gets going and can put some in the back of the net, and with (David Brown) between the pipes, he’s been unbelievable. We just have to play as a team and keep going.”
The Thunder allows the fewest shots in the Central Hockey League but also takes the second-fewest. Its games are often methodical affairs in which the opponent makes the most of limited opportunities but Wichita can’t.
When teams don’t make concerted efforts to slow down the game, the Thunder usually thrives. Wichita matches up well with teams like Tulsa and Quad City, both in the top half of the league in shots because, while a single standout scorer might not exist on the Thunder’s roster – at least outside of Booras – Wichita has depth.
“If you look down the chart, we’ve got so many guys who are 30-goal scorers on our team,” Dudas said. “Our top line there, Booras, Robinson and (Lowe), they know how to put the puck in the back of the net. You follow that up with Summers, Flath and Klempa, and our third line has been unbelievable, crashing and banging and helping out on the scoresheet.”
Most of those players, at least this year, have followed the lead of Booras and Dudas, whose collective scoring has become more dynamic recently.
Booras has eight multi-point games since Nov. 27 and Dudas, who notched his season-best with four points on Friday, has eight games of two points or more since Nov. 15. He has a plus-six rating since scoring three points against Missouri on Dec. 5.
“He’s a guy who, I’ll say it over and over again, has been overlooked,” Dudas said of Booras. “He’s such a great team guy, that’s what people don’t get with him. He’s quiet, he’s humble, and when you need a big goal he’ll put it in the net for you.”
Scoring—1. Wichita, Summers (Dudas, Martens), 5:48; 2. Wichita, M. Wilson (Booras, Lowe), 11:00. Penalties—Wichita, Lowe (hooking), 12:55; Wichita, Dudas (interference); Wichita, Dudas (abuse of officials misconduct), 14:59.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Booras (Robinson, Linden), 0:53; 4. Wichita, Dudas PP (Martens, Klempa), 10:31; 5. Quad City, Nagy (Dieude-Fauvel), Levesque), 11:21; 6. Wichita, Booras (Lowe, Robinson), 17:07. Penalties—Quad City, McMillan (tripping), 3:31; Quad City, Dieude-Fauvel (slashing), 7:48; Quad City, Monfredo (cross checking), 9:58; Wichita, Flath (tripping), 12:33; Quad City, Stinziani (slashing), 14:01; Wichita, Dudas (interference), 18:55.
Scoring—7. Wichita, Dudas PP (Martens, Walker), 10:00; 8. Wichita, Flath (Klempa, Summers), 14:02. Penalties—Wichita, Flath (hooking), 0:27; Wichita, Summers (slashing), 3:03; Wichita, Flath (tripping), 5:05; Quad City, Monfredo (tripping), 5:58; Quad City, Levesque (hooking), 9:07; Wichita, Lizon (fighting major), 15:15; Quad City, Yaworski (fighting major), 15:15.
Power play— Quad City 0-7, Wichita 2-6. Shots—Quad City 12-5-11-28, Wichita 13-14-10-37. Saves—Quad City, Rimmer 22-27, Niedert 8-10; Wichita, Brown 27-28.