There's likely no one on the Wichita Thunder who plays with more emotion than Mike Batovanja, so the boos probably bothered him the most.
But he certainly understood.
The Wichita Thunder lost its season opener in thoroughly humiliating fashion, falling 5-0 to the Amarillo Gorillas on Friday night in the Kansas Coliseum.
So the Thunder made history in its final home opener in the Brown Barn, as some fans like to call the Coliseum. The loss marked the first time in the 18-year history of the Central Hockey League franchise that the team had been shut out in a home opener.
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When it was over, boos from what remained of the crowd of 5,013 filled the Coliseum as the players skated off the ice.
"They had every right to boo," Batovanja said. "We gave them absolutely nothing to cheer. If I paid money to watch that, I would have booed, too.
"It was embarrassing. We had a good week of practices; in the exhibition games, we had high energy. I don't know what happened."
No one involved with the Thunder organization wants to dredge up memories of last season, but it must have been difficult not to suffer flashbacks from 2008-09, when the team went 20-41-3.
The Thunder seemed lackluster from the beginning of the game, which stunned second-year coach Brent Bilodeau.
"We had absolutely no jump," he said. "I don't know if we thought we could just show up and win or what. In the exhibition games, we were a lot better. Tonight, it was soft plays, lost battles."
Leading 2-0, Amarillo ended any realistic hopes of a Thunder comeback when David Nimmo finished off a 3-on-2 break, extending the Gorillas' lead to 3-0 with 14 minutes left. Less than two minutes later, Amarillo scored 14 seconds into a power play.
The Thunder was 0 for 7 on the power play and managed only 18 shots, including two in the final period. The failures came against a Southern Conference team that was 19-42-3 last season.
Perhaps the only good news for the Thunder is that the team has the chance to right itself tonight against visiting Mississippi.
"Hopefully, we learn from this," Batovanja said. "If we don't, (tonight) could be even worse because we've got a better team coming in. Our energy has to be a lot better."
Notes _ Four Thunder players started the season on injured reserve: Defensemen Jordan Little and Chris Kovalcik, and rookie forwards Chris Trafford and Brandon Kaleniecki.... Tonight's opponent, Mississippi, led 2-0 but lost 6-3 at Tulsa on Friday night.... Fans can thank Batovanja for doing his best to spice up a dreary night. In his first game back after missing nearly all of season because of a knee injury, and suffering from sore ribs, the 5-foot-7 Batovanja tangled with 6-4 James Jernberg in the second period — the season's first fight. To the delight of the crowd, Batovanja eventually grabbed Jernberg by the leg and executed a clean takedown.
Amarillo0 2 3 — 5 Wichita0 0 0 — 0
Scoring—none. Penalties— Amarillo, Guay (holding) 4:11; Amarillo, bench (too many men on the ice) 5:04; Wichita, Hanson (hooking) 7:03; Wichita, bench (too many men on the ice) 11:58; Amarillo, McNeil (cross checking) 14:20.
Scoring—1. Amarillo, Morissette 1 (MacRae, Smale) 12:53; 2. Amarillo, MacRae 1 (Morissette, Battaglia) 14:44. Penalties— Amarillo, McNeil (tripping) 4:04: Wichita, Jorgensen (roughing) 5:12; Amarillo, Jernberg (fighting) 9:20; Wichita, Batovanja (fighting) 9:20; Amarillo, Hill (hooking) 15:02; Wichita, McAllister (interference) 19:56; Amarillo Chafe (boarding) 17:10.
Scoring—3. Amarillo, Nimmo 1 (Battaglia) 5:58; 4. Amarillo, Morissette 2 (Bell, Aldoff) 7:42 pp; 5. Amarillo, Guenther (Nimmo, Battaglia) 19:22. Penalties— Wichita, Adamek (cross checking) :06; Wichita, Beauchamp (tripping) 7:27; Amarillo, Jernberg (hooking) 8:10;
Shots on goal—Amarillo, 5-11-12—28. Wichita, 9-7-2—18.
Power plays—Amarillo 1-6, Wichita 0-7.
Goaltenders—Amarillo, Brown 18 saves on 18 shots. Wichita, Boron 23 saves on 28 shots.