A second-period penalty was such a shift from the monotony of an uneventful first hockey period that both Quad City and the Thunder saw it as an opportunity to tilt the tedium and take control.
Quad City drew the penalty but approached its short-handedness with more resolve than the Thunder had with a one-man advantage. The Mallards scored a short-handed goal, the second one Wichita has allowed in two games, and deflated the Thunder on the way to a 4-1 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
There was no scoring and not a single penalty in the first period, so the whistle presented such an upheaval that both teams became energized. Only Quad City carried it beyond those two minutes, though, as the Mallards scored three second-period goals.
“Anytime you get scored on (when you’re) on a power play, it’s kind of a backbreaker,” Thunder forward RG Flath said. “It seems like this year it just breaks our spirit when that happens.
“You’ve got to have amnesia in this game and try not to dwell on those plays. It’s the past and you can’t do anything about it. I don’t know what our deal is, we just need to make sure we turn the page and continue working hard and go forward.”
Short-handed goals have essentially been the difference in two Thunder losses this weekend, including a one-goal defeat to Allen on Friday night.
A three-goal loss doesn’t suggest any one goal was most critical, but the Thunder’s reaction to Quad City’s first score increased the goal’s importance.
Wichita never really recovered until the third period, but even that brief surge, highlighted by a hustle goal from Flath, was halted by an empty-net goal following an empty power play by the Thunder.
“Should never happen,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said of opponents’ short-handed goals. “I mean, it’s going to happen once in a while but not two nights in a row. Critical goals. Criticial goals. You kidding me? Can’t happen. You’re not going to win a lot of games ... special teams are huge.”
The Thunder, mired in ninth place in a 10-team Central Hockey League that awards eight playoff spots, seemed to have something to build from after Friday’s loss, a disappointing result in a game where Wichita more than doubled Allen’s shots and scored three times based mostly on effort.
The effort wasn’t as easily discovered on Saturday, as the Thunder allowed Quad City to settle into a more methodical pace, then made mental errors that led to additional second-period goals. The Mallards scored on their only power play, holding a decisive special-teams advantage in a game between the CHL’s least-penalized clubs.
“I don’t know if it was just an emotional kind of high we were on (Friday) night and we came crashing down tonight,” Flath said. “It was a tough loss (Friday) night and guys took it personally, but you can’t dwell on things. You have to turn the page and start playing like our lives depend on it.”
The enthusiasm in Friday’s loss was a positive point that the Thunder let fade away in the immediate aftermath. There wasn’t as much to take away from a Saturday setback that put Wichita four points behind Arizona for eighth place, but the team’s survival may depend on an upbeat perspective.
“You have to in this game,” Flath said. “You have to find little moral victories each night, otherwise you’re just going to beat yourself up and you’re going to have no confidence come the next game. You just have to find the positives out of every game and learn from the mistakes.”
Scoring—1. Quad City, Boyd SH (Nagy, Dieude-Fauvel), 8:10; 2. Quad City, Nikiforov PP (Monfredo, Lee), 16:34; 3. Quad City, Boyd (Stinziani, McMillan), 18:37. Penalties—Quad City, Rioux (tripping), 7:41; Wichita, McParland (slashing), 15:21.
Scoring—4. Wichita, Flath (Madden, Nelson), 11:21; 5. Quad City, Levesque empty-net (Lee), 17:57. Penalties—Quad City, Duffy (tripping), 9:01; Quad City, Lee (hooking), 15:22.
Power play—Quad City 1-1, Wichita 0-3. Shots—Quad City 7-12-4—23, Wichita 9-6-15—30. Saves—Quad City, Rimmer 29-30, Nelson 19-22.