The Wings had a sold-out crowd of about 5,200 fans at Hartman Arena on Saturday night, but any of them could have seen several of the previous 11 to accurately predict what happened.
An early deficit. An energetic, spirited comeback. Several missed scoring chances, including some that were agonizingly close.
Wichita has followed that formula even in some of the games it has won. It didn’t equal a victory Saturday, as the Wings fell to Rochester 16-10 in the home finale of their inaugural season.
The Wings trailed by three during much of the third quarter, employing a sixth attacker in the final minutes. Rochester gained possession during one of Wichita’s attacks and scored from about 50 yards, effectively ending the Wings’ chances.
“How many times did we hit the inside of this post or the inside of that post down there,” Wings coach LeBaron Hollimon said. “Game of inches — inches that didn’t go our way tonight. It’s disappointing.”
The Wings scored three points in their previous game, a road loss to Milwaukee, and it appeared early that their offense would suffer through a similar sixty minutes.
Rochester led 8-0 less than seven minutes into the second quarter. The Wings had opportunities, but many of their shots were getting blocked before they reached the goal. Rochester blocked 14 shots, three fewer than Wichita got toward the net.
"Their defense was good, their goalkeeper (Patrick Hannigan) was good," Hollimon said. "He made some very, very good saves. (The difference was) our inability to attack the goal for second chances. We’ve got to get better at looking to get second chances."
Jamie Harding scored for the Wings with about five minutes to go in the second quarter. But the goal was answered quickly, another ongoing problem this season, and Rochester regained its eight-point advantage.
The Wings weren’t deterred, scoring before halftime to take a manageable 10-4 deficit into the break.
“At some point, having to keep coming back isn’t going to be good enough,” Hollimon said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve relied on it, but it’s become too much of what our game has been about, and you can’t have a season like that.”
The Wings kept pulling closer, getting it to 13-10 in the fourth quarter. It created a similar situation to their last home game, when they needed a three-pointer late against Milwaukee to tie it.
In that game, Wichita converted with an extra player before winning in sudden-death overtime. Saturday, Wichita got close, with shots hitting the most or missing the net when Hannigan was out of position.
But the Wings couldn’t score, and in their efforts to take as many shots as possible, the deflection from one ended up with Doug Miller, who scored from the opposite three-point line with an open net.
"That’s always the worry you have with sixth attacker," Hollimon said. "If they get one, it’s probably going to be a three-pointer because they’re shooting from a distance. You know it’s an issue, but it’s a calculated risk you have to take."
Power play—Rochester 2 for 2, Wichita 1 for 2
Shots—Rochester 18 shots on goal, 5 shots blocked, 23 total; Wichita 17 shots on goal, 14 shots blocked, 31 total.
Saves—Rochester, Hannigan 12 saves on 17 shots; Wichita, Carvalho 11 saves on 17 shots.