Minutes after the Wichita Thunder dropped to 0-2 with a deflating home-opening loss on Saturday night, new coach Kevin McClelland leaned backed in his chair with his right foot resting comfortably on his desk.
He looked completely relaxed.
Don’t for a moment, however, think McClelland was taking a troubling 4-1 setback to the Tulsa Oilers in Intrust Bank Arena lightly.
The former NHL star had strong words for his players.
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“Obviously, some guys played their way off the team tonight,” he said. “I’m not gonna make changes just to make changes. They gotta be right, you know.“But there’s some guys I know don’t want to go out there and pay the price.”
The results from the weekend — the Thunder blew a 2-0 lead and lost 4-3 at Tulsa on Friday — were fairly stunning, given all the optimism that the revamped team carried into the season.
Instead, the crowd of 7,110 likely endured nightmarish flashbacks from last season, when the Thunder went 9-50-5.
“We were looking for a good start, and instead we’re 0-2. It’s unacceptable,” captain Daniel Tetrault said. “The fans here, they’ve gone through a lot of losing, so it’s very disappointing.
“Guys need to step up, and it starts Monday.”
Without question, McClelland has increased the talent level, but he suggested that there are no quick fixes.
“We’ve got a bunch of new players in here,” said McClelland, who brought back only three members of last year’s team. “It’s gonna be a process, a long process. We have to stay the course. We can’t get flustered.”
For the second straight night, Tulsa goalie Trevor Cann, a second-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2007 NHL Draft, outplayed the Thunder’s Ian Keserich.Cann, who played 13 games in the higher-level American Hockey League last season, made 35 saves — none bigger than one he made in the third period.
With Tulsa clinging to a 2-1 lead and the game still in question, Aaron Davis fed Tetrault a perfect pass in the slot. It looked like a sure goal, but Conn made an impressive save.
Adding insult to injury, Tulsa turned the miss into a breakaway and Jack Combs beat Keserich for a 3-1 Tulsa lead.
“Oh, he robbed me,” Tetrault said. “Again, it’s execution. Take nothing away from their goalie; he played great. But I gotta bury that.”
Notes — The Thunder retired Jason Duda’s jersey before the game. An emotional Duda choked up several times while addressing the crowd prior to the unveiling of his retired No. 11 jersey. Joined at center ice by his wife and two young children, Duda thanked the fans and the Thunder organization. “I came here as a 21-year-old kid really not knowing what to expect,” he said. “I’ve been able to make Wichita my home. I met my wife, who gave me two great kids. The organization has been great to me. The people of Wichita, I consider you my friends, and I thank you for everything over the last 14 years.”æ.æ.æ. Davis, who had a career year for the Oilers last season, scored the Thunder’s only goal late in the first period when he backhanded in the puck to tie the game at 1.æ.æ.æ. It was the second of 12 meetings between the teams this season.
Tulsa (2-0) 1 0 3 — 4Wichita (0-2) 1 0 0 — 1First PeriodScoring—1. Tulsa, Steffes 1 (Erickson, Costello) 2:16; 2. Wichita, Davis 1 (Wight) 19:08. Penalties—Wichita, Martens (slashing) 5:26; Wichita, Woll (holding ) 16:13; Wichita, Greene (tripping) 17:46; Tulsa, Eastman (diving) 17:46.Second PeriodScoring—None. Penalties—Tulsa, Cloud (fighting) 2:28; Wichita, Goulet (fighting) 2:28; Wichita, Tetrault (interference) 5:15; Wichita, bench (abuse of officials) 5:51; Tulsa, Steffes (hooking) 7:40; Tulsa, Standish (hooking) 9:32.Third PeriodScoring—3. Tulsa, Bell 1 (Standish, Linder) 3:50; 4. Tulsa, Combs 1 (Reed, Linder) 7:42; 5. Tulsa, Steffes 1 (Weeks, Barker) 16:36 pp; Penalties—Wichita, Bennefield (holding)14:40; Tulsa, Combs (unsportsmanlike conduct) 19:05; Wichita, Goulet (unsportsmanlike conduct) 19:05.Power play—Tulsa 1-5, Wichita 0-2.Shots on goal—Tulsa 7-11-9—27, Wichita 9-16-11—36.Goalies—Tulsa, Cann 35 saves on 36 shots. Wichita, Keserich 23 saves on 27 shots.A—7,110.