Despite all the losing the Wichita Thunder has suffered, the team's penalty kill has provided a rare point of pride.
Even that unit faltered on Wednesday night.
Playing short on the blueline, the Thunder allowed three power-play goals and lost 5-2 to the Mississippi Riverkings in Intrust Bank Arena.
With its fifth straight loss overall, and 19th in a row at home, the Thunder dropped to 7-36-4.
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Entering the game, the Thunder had killed 85 of 91 penalties (93.4) to climb to sixth in the Central Hockey League. But on Wednesday, the team allowed multiple power-play goals for the first time since Dec. 31, a stretch of 16 games.
"The penalty kill has been great," interim coach Jason Duda said. "It just wasn't there tonight."
Mississippi, a team that had lost seven of eight, dominated the first two periods, taking a 5-1 lead, chasing goalie Ian Keserich and outshooting the Thunder 32-17.
Making matters worse for Wichita, Tim Boron, who was only forced to make 16 saves, was the winning goalie for Mississippi (24-20-6). After struggling to come back from surgery on both hips, Boron struggled with the Thunder before asking to be traded.
The bright spot for the Thunder was Paul Kelly, who scored Wichita's goals, both on the power play, giving him 15 points in 16 games since joining the team.
Kelly put the Thunder on top 1-0 at the 7 minute, 40 second mark of the first period — a lead that lasted about two minutes.
Mississippi responded with two of its power-play goals — one by leading scorer Ryan Held, who has 51 points — to take the lead for good.
Mississippi added three more goals in the second.
"In the second period, it seems like we just kind of gassed out," said Joel Hanson, who had two assists. "We didn't play with much energy at all."
The Thunder had a legitimate excuse. Three defensemen — Steve Makway, Mark Adamek and J.R. Bria — sat out with injuries. Duda was uncertain about the timetable for their return.
Makway and Adamek average about 25 minutes of playing time per game, Duda said.
"Losing those two guys is tough, but it's no excuse," Duda said. "You can always have a work ethic. I don't know if it was lacking, but something was wrong with our mindset before the game."
Notes — The Thunder and Mississippi are two of the three remaining original CHL franchises.... The Thunder hasn't won at home since Nov. 20 of last year.... The Thunder had single-digit shot totals each period, finishing with 18.
Mississippi2 3 0 — 5 Wichita1 0 1 — 2
First period —1. Wichita, Kelly (Hanson, McAllister), 7:40 (pp). 2. Miss, Held (Stoddard, Dumont), 8:37 (pp). 3. Miss, Summers (Godoy, Chaumont), 9:55 (pp). Penalties — Stoddard, Miss., (Hooking), 7:30; McAllister, Wichita (Hooking), 8:11; Thompson, Wichita, (Hooking), 9:09; Dumont, Miss., (Tripping), 11:41; McAllister, Wichita, (Tripping), 19:24.
Second period —4. Miss, Landmesser (Doherty, Margeson) 2:42. 5. Miss, Held (Dumont, Lackner) 8:47 (pp). 6. Miss, Summers (Schwartzbauer, Chaumont) 15:01. Penalties — Godoy, Miss, (Hooking), 5:27; Ottmann, Wichita, (Hooking), 7:28; Thompson, Wichita, (Hooking), 8:03; Margeson, Miss., (Roughing), 10:13.
Third period —7. Wichita, Kelly (Clark, Hanson) 5:51 (pp). Penalties — Godoy, Miss., (Hooking), 5:43; Klempa, Wichita, (Tripping), 9:42.
Shots on Goal—Miss 15-17-10—42. Wichita 6-7-5—18. Saves— Miss, Boron 18 shots, 16 saves. Wichita, Keserich 28-23, Campbell 14-14. Referee— Ryan Hersey. Linesmen— Dennis Mercer, Jon Shaw. A.— 4,789.