Disappointment, frustration, heartbreak — perhaps those emotions are following the Wichita Thunder during this dreadful season.
After a year already filled with historic disappointments, the Central Hockey League team added yet another, losing its Intrust Bank Arena debut to the Tulsa Oilers 2-1 in front of a sell-out crowd of 13,412 on Saturday night.
Playing on picture-perfect ice and in front of the largest crowd to witness a hockey game in Wichita, the Thunder led 1-0 entering the third period, but, like so many times at the Kansas Coliseum, the team sent fans home unhappy.
"It's disappointing, obviously," interim coach Jason Duda said. "Nobody's happy about it, but what can you do? We wish we could have got the win."
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A victory, which would have given the Thunder consecutive victories for the first time this season, seemed likely.
Thanks to a second-period goal from Paul Kelly, who collected a rebound and scored past a diving Trevor Cann, the Thunder (4-30-3) took a lead into the final period for just the seventh time this season.
But Tulsa (18-16-1) tied the game at the 5:21 mark of the third on a goal by leading scorer T.J. Caig.
With about seven minutes left, after a lengthy scramble out front, Tulsa's Thomas Harrison finally got the game-winner past Thunder goalie Ian Keserich.
Even though Duda said the Thunder had ample opportunity to clear the puck, Keserich, whose saves percentage improved to an impressive .931, blamed himself. As usual.
"I was swimming in the crease; I was sprawled out," he said. "It hit the post or the crossbar or something and bounced out. At one point, I was watching the puck come right at me, and then it slid under my armpit.
"It was devastating."
The Thunder, which snapped a league-record 22-game losing streak with a victory at Tulsa on Friday, was outshot 41-26. In the decisive third period, Tulsa had a 17-8 shot advantage.
"It was unfortunate," Duda said. "It was our third game in three nights, and the guys were tired, mentally drained. That's not an excuse, it is what it is.
"I don't think anyone would say we played very well. We made soft plays. Tonight, it just wasn't there."
Notes — Just three seconds into the game, the Thunder's Shane Foster fought Harrison.... Former Thunder great Bob Berg dropped the ceremonial first puck.... The Oilers had been a part of three previous arena openings. They won at Colorado, lost at Rocky Mountain and lost at their own building, the BOK Center.... CHL commissioner Duane Lewis attended the game.... Phil Stacey of "American Idol" fame, and a Wichita Northwest grad, performed the National Anthem.
Tulsa0 0 2 — 2 Wichita0 1 0 — 1
Scoring—None. Penalties— Tulsa, Harrison (fighting) :03; Wichita, Foster (fighting) :03; Tulsa, Fleck 2:39; Wichita, Bria (fighting) 2:39; Tulsa, Eastman (hooking) 8:40; Tulsa, Harrison (roughing) 12:09; Wichita, Beauchamp (roughing) 12:09; Tulsa, Gumaer (elbow) 14:46; Wichita, Woll (interference) 19:08.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Kelly 14 (Kaleniecki, Foster) 9:13. Penalties— Tulsa, Harrison (roughing) 12:37; Wichita, Woll (roughing) 12:37; Wichita, Foster (slashing) 13:20; Tulsa, Riddle (fighting) 16:05; Wichita, Bria (fighting) 16:05; Tulsa, Caig (roughing) 17:41; Wichita, Makway (roughing) 17:41; Tulsa, bench (too many men on the ice) 19:34; Tulsa, bench (unsportsmanlike conduct) 19:34.
Scoring—2. Tulsa, Caig 16 (Davis, Eastman) 5:21; 3. Tulsa, Harrison 2 (Henkemeyer, Riedel) 12:51. Penalties— Wichita, Makway (roughing) 8:40.
Power plays—Tulsa 0-3, Wichita 0-4.
Shots on goal—Tulsa 8-16-, Wichita 6-12-.
Goaltenders—Tulsa, Cann 25 saves on 26 shots. Wichita, Keserich 39 saves on 41 shots.