THEY SAVED HIS BACON
As a player, Kevin McClelland was known for his mean streak, evidenced by the fact that he piled up more than 200 penalty minutes for four straight seasons while providing a physical presence for the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty of the 1980s.
But during six years behind the bench, McClelland has an excellent track record in terms of keeping his cool.
McClelland has coached 339 games and been tossed from just one — last season in Missouri when he was with the Colorado Eagles.
"I've had to bite my tongue a few times, obviously," McClelland said. "But I have a lot of respect for those three guys. I saw their job firsthand — especially the linesmen. They saved my bacon a few times in some scraps.
"They've always been pretty good to me. They're not robots. As a coach, there are always gonna be things you agree with or disagree with. Nobody's perfect. I do things wrong on the bench sometimes."
The topic is timely, given Colorado coach Chris Stewart's outburst during the Thunder's most-recent home game on Friday. With Colorado up 3-1 in the second period, the Eagles were whistled for their third straight penalty; the Thunder had none at the time.
That disparity _ plus the fact that referee Tudor Floru was late to the game after getting caught behind a traffic accident in Oklahoma, according to the Thunder _ was too much for Stewart.
He lost his composure, screaming at Floru and then tossing three water bottles onto the ice at Intrust Bank Arena. The outburst helped change the game, as the Thunder scored on the ensuing five-on-three power play and then added three more unanswered goals in a 5-4 victory.
Stewart was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended one game _ the automatic penalty for tossing objects on the ice, according to the CHL.
"Certainly the ref had his eyes slanted toward giving us numerous penalties, and that's something he's done his entire career," Stewart told the Reporter-Herald in Loveland, Colo. "I bet if you went back and added it up, it'd be six-to-one the calls we take when he's got our games. First off, he's late for the game; then he comes out and calls three straight against us. That frustration builds up, and it led me to say something I shouldn't have. I've got to take some responsibility for that; it was a selfish thing, and it put the team down."
* On Friday, the Thunder plays host to the Fort Wayne Komets, who won the last three Turner Cup championships in the IHL. But Fort Wayne is finding life more than difficult in the CHL. The Komets have only five wins, the fewest in the 18-team league. "Once they get on a roll, they're really gonna get on a roll," McClelland said. "You don't win championships like that without having proven talent." Fort Wayne recently added Tab Lardner, who had 25 goals for the Thunder in 2005-06.
* Fort Wayne has lost two of six games when leading after two periods. By comparison, the Thunder is 7-0 when ahead after two.
* After a Friday game against Fort Wayne, the Thunder plays Tulsa three consecutive games and four of the next five. Entering play Tuesday night, the Oilers had won three games in a row — all by Thunder castoff Ian Keserich. In Tulsa, Keserich is 6-5 with a 3.28 goals-against average and a .908 saves percentage. His Wichita numbers were 0-3, 4.03 GAA and .840 SP.
* Defenseman Andrew Martens, who missed the loss at Mississippi on Saturday because of the flu, is expected back on Friday. Injured Jason Goulet has resumed skating. McClelland said that Marty Magers is still nursing a "nagging injury" so he will sit this weekend.
Thunder defenseman Kory Scoran is tied for the league lead in power-play goals with six.
The Thunder's shutout loss at Mississippi on Saturday was its fourth straight setback on the road. The Thunder has scored two or fewer goals in three of the losses.
TAP OF THE STICK
Rob Boyle, former Thunder assistant coach and current color commentator on broadcasts, worked overtime on Friday night. He worked as a fill-in linesman when officials were late to the game at IBA, then hustled upstairs for his radio gig and, to top it off with style, bit the head off a bat as part of the organization's Ozzy Osbourne birthday promotion. Well, two of those things are true.
TAP OF THE STICK II
Aaron Davis (three points), Kory Scoran (two goals) and A.J. Gale (three points) were named stars of the game following the Thunder's victory over Colorado, and deservedly so. But the checking line of Robin Richards, Chris Greene and Lance Galbraith was active, especially early. The 6-foot-4 Greene had one of the biggest hits of the night, blasting Colorado's 6-4 Chris Hau in the first period. "They kept it simple, made things tough on the opponent," McClelland said.
Consecutive home games in which the Thunder has earned at least a point
HE SAID IT
"No, I think the guys know that in this league teams are so evenly matched that you have to be on top of your game every night."
—McClelland, stressing that his team won't overlook last-place Fort Wayne