Brent Ottmann hasn't survived the tumultuous Wichita Thunder season because he's blessed with the gift of gab. Rather, in a season that has seen the team use 43 players, Ottmann's quiet demeanor has been a plus.
"I love the kid to death," interim coach Jason Duda said. "He just does what he's asked. He never said 'boo' when he was a healthy scratch, never said 'boo' when he wasn't getting much ice time.
"All he does is work and work hard. When you do that, it pays off."
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A 6-foot-1 native of Martensville, Sasketchewan, Ottmann is one of only three forwards remaining who started the season with the team. (Joel Hanson and Brad Thompson are the others.)
Virtually anonymous much of the year, Ottmann earned the No. 2 star on Sunday when he delivered the game-winning goal against Texas, helping the Thunder snap its 19-game home losing streak.
Ottmann's goal wasn't necessarily of the highlight variety, but the score showed that he has been listening to Duda, who has implored his players to shoot the puck more. On the play, Ottmann, wrapping up a lengthy shift, simply threw the puck at the net from behind the blueline. It eluded Texas' goalie, giving the Thunder its first win at Intrust Bank Arena.
Predictably, Ottmann didn't have much to say about the goal, so we'll turn to goalie Ian Keserich for comment.
"It was great to see him get that goal," Keserich said. "He always works hard, and he's really meshing with the team."
Given his increased production over the course of the season, Ottmann is a likely candidate for the team's most-improved player award.
In his first 21 games, Ottmann had one goal and two assists. In the past 28 games, he has chipped in four goals and five assists. Two of his five goals have been game-winners.
"I just try to play hard," Ottmann said.
* Team ballots for the CHL's annual Best of the Best poll are due Friday. Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno is hoping that, even though only seven teams have played in Intrust Bank Arena, the new venue gets some support for the "best arena" category. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder picks up its fifth straight "most annoying fans" award. In the new arena, with high glass behind the benches, the infamous hecklers are no longer a factor. Without their input, there's nothing particularly annoying about the Thunder crowd.
* Duda expected that Steve Makway or J.R. Bria would return tonight, with the other playing on Friday. Mark Adamek is out at least through the weekend.
* Now that the Thunder and Wingnuts baseball team have different owners, the Thunder is moving from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium back to its old offices across the street at Ice Sports Wichita. The move takes place Friday.
The Thunder outshot Texas 40-27, tying the highest positive shot differential this season. On Dec. 27, the Thunder enjoyed a 39-26 advantage, also against Texas.
The Thunder has scored two goals or fewer in seven straight games.
TAP OF THE STICK
Ian Keserich's shutout on Sunday was the team's first since Nov. 2007. It was the Thunder's first 1-0 shutout victory in the regular season since Nathan Grobins blanked New Mexico on Feb. 7, 2004.
I'm the type to readily admit my mistakes (usually after my wife points them out). There was, for example, that whole day I wasted watching the "Jersey Shore" marathon. Not a good situation. So I am sending myself to the box for a brutal error I made last week when I wrote that the Thunder would be playing in the Kansas Coliseum instead of Intrust Bank Arena. Ugh. I guess I was gripping the pen a little too tight, or maybe I started feeling too good about myself after that great piece I wrote on Ian Keserich. Whatever, I am just going back to basics and taking it one story at a time.
PENALTY BOX II
The Thunder still isn't using the video boards above center ice to full potential. How about a trivia question each intermission? How about an animated puck race?
Keserich's save percentage — tied with Bossier-Shreveport's Ken Carroll for highest in the league
HE SAID IT
"It's great, but tomorrow it's back to work."
— Keserich after the Thunder's victory on Sunday