The Wichita Thunder couldn't have asked for a better overtime opportunity than the one presented on Saturday night: A one-minute 4-on-3 power play at home against a backup goalie.
The way the Thunder had been playing — six straight wins, including the last two in dramatic fashion — it seemed a foregone conclusion that there would be another last-second hero.
Instead, the chance was wasted with an ugly effort, and the Thunder came up empty in the shootout — failures that resulted in a 3-2 loss to the Bloomington (Ill.) Prairie Thunder at Intrust Bank Arena.
The OT power play was on the mind of a frustrated coach Kevin McClelland immediately after the game.
"We didn't establish nothing on it," he said.
Actually, one shot, by leading scorer Jesse Bennefield.
"It wasn't even a shot," McClelland corrected. "Just a lame effort."
Entering the game, the Thunder was 16th in the 18-team Central Hockey League on the man advantage. The Thunder was 1 for 5 on Saturday.
"I've got to see a little more on the power play," McClelland said. "I've got to change guys up. Guys are taking it for granted. You've got to work on the power play, and our guys aren't now. Just a lot of perimeter stuff."
The shootout was uneventful for the 4,811 fans who attended the team's last home game until Nov. 24. Bloomington's John Snowden scored on his team's first attempt, and goaltender Brad Phillips turned away all five Wichita shooters. A.J. Gale was the Thunder's last hope, but his shot sailed high, allowing Bloomington to go to 6-2. The Thunder is 6-4-1, including 4-2-1 at home.
"We didn't even come close," McClelland said of the shootout. "But neither did they, except on the first one."
The good news for the Thunder was the performance of newcomer Peter Delmas, the goaltender assigned to Wichita this week from Hamilton of the higher-level American Hockey League. Playing for the first time since an overtime victory in the AHL on Oct. 29, the 6-foot-2 Delmas made 33 saves. He seemed to gain confidence as the game continued.
"He was good," McClelland said. "He was real sound, positionally sound. He plays big in there."
The unexpected star of the game was Phillips, who entered the game after starter Marco Emond, the league leader in goals-against average (1.98), left with an injury in the first period. He made 30 saves.
"He came in and did his job," McClelland said. "Who knows, maybe it would have been a different outcome if the other guy had been out there."
Notes — Emond took a shot to his neck, just beside his throat, Bloomington coach Jason Christie said. Christie said Emond had a "big bump" but was otherwise fine.... Thunder newcomer Matt Robinson continues to impress. He scored two goals, the first on the power play, in a span of 44 seconds to put the Thunder up 2-1 in the second. He had a goal on Friday, too.... Bennefield extended his scoring streak to eight games. Troy Schwab's streak was snapped at six.
Bloomington1 1 0 0 1 — 3 Wichita0 2 0 0 0 — 2
Scoring—1. Bloomington, Ciraulo 3 (Holmberg, Cloud) 11:54; Penalties— Bloomington, Snowden (slashing) 3:04; Bloomington, Macdonald (hooking) 7:14; Wichita, Bennefield (slashing) 9:38; Wichita, Schwab (hooking) 12:48.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Robinson 2 (Hughes, Gale) 8:17 pp; 3. Wichita, Robinson 3 (Bennefield, Davis) 9:01; 4. Bloomington, Kaufman 1 (Snowden, Bagron) 12:23. Penalties— Wichita, Schwab (interference) 1:20; Wichita, Wight (delay of game) 2:18; Bloomington, Deleurme (slashing) 7:12; Wichita, Wight (roughing) 13:30.
Scoring—none. Penalties— Bloomington, Dale (roughing) 3:14; Bloomington, Macdonald (slashing, fighting) 14:33; Wichita, Galbraith (roughing, fighting) 14:33.
Scoring—none. Penalties— Bloomington, Deleurme (roughing) 3:07.
Bloomington: Snowden, make; Dale, miss; Deleurme, miss; Bagron, miss; Granbois, miss.
Wichita: Robinson, miss; Bennefield, miss; Schwab, miss; Hughes, miss; Gale, miss high.
Shots on goal—Bloomington 9-7-11-8-1—36, Wichita 16-8-15-1-40. Power play— Bloomington 0-5, Wichita 1-5. Goaltenders— Bloomington, Emond 8 saves on 8 shots; Phillips 30 saves on 32 shots; Wichita, Delmas 33 saves on 35 shots. Att.— 4,811.