We could spend quite some time discussing the sometimes boring, sometimes ugly style of play the Wichita Thunder was forced into by the defensive-minded Texas Brahmas on Saturday night.
But those fans who experienced it suffered enough, even though they were ultimately rewarded as the dead-tired Thunder, playing its third game in three nights, gutted out a 2-1 victory at Intrust Bank Arena.
So better, and more entertaining, for all involved to concentrate on a beautiful five seconds of hockey — a couple sparkling passes and a game-winning goal — rather than the other 59 minutes or so.
The trapping Brahmas spent most of the evening clogging up the ice, but when the Thunder finally found an opening, the result was the play that decided the game. It came with the score tied at 1 midway through the third period.
Alex Bourret, working from the corner, fired a cross-ice pass to defenseman Andrew Martens, who bobbled the puck a bit and then thought about firing a shot from the point — an acceptable option for one of the Central Hockey League's top players. Not surprisingly, though, there was no opening.
"They kind of took away all my shooting lanes," Martens said.
Martens spotted Thomas Beauregard sliding to the right of the net and made a quick, short pass to the high-scoring forward. Even with a Texas defenseman closing in, Beauregard paused for a moment until Matt Summers worked his way open in the high slot.
Summers appeared to tap his stick, Beauregard delivered the pass, and Summers beat goalie Steve Silverthorn with a one-timer. A thing of beauty on a mostly frustrating night.
"Beautiful pass by Thomas Beauregard," said Summers, who continues to work himself into shape after a stay on injured reserve. "He could have fired it right away, but he waited for me to get in the right spot."
Coach Kevin McClelland, whose team is 13-7 and 9-3 at home, called it "a real nice goal."
"All night we couldn't get shots through," he said. "It was nice to find a play where we could actually get something done against them."
The other big story of the night was the play of goalie Adam Russo, who took responsible for a 3-2 loss at Texas on Friday after he allowed the game-winner on a soft goal in the third period. On Saturday, Russo wasn't tested much — he made 19 saves — but he made a couple big stops at key moments. One such time came in the second period with the Thunder leading 1-0 on a goal by Alex Bourret, who scored his seventh point in the past five games.
The Brahmas (11-7-3) were on a 2-on-1 break and seemed sure to even the score, but Russo made a sliding stop for perhaps his best save of the game. The dramatics didn't end there as the puck popped into the air and in front of the net, where Beauregard batted it out of the air and safely away.
"Beau bailed me out on that one," Russo said. "It's good to have a team you know you can trust. We really battled tonight. It was a good team win, and we really, really, really needed it."
Notes — The Thunder moved into sole possession of second place in its conference with the win.... Wichita's Erick Lizon squared off with Ryan Hand, who played for the Thunder in 2010-11, in the opening period. The video screen showed both players wiping blood off their faces in the penalty box.... The annual Teddy Bear Toss brought in a record 1,684 stuffed animals. Thunder players will distribute the toys to local children.
Texas0 0 1 — 1 Wichita1 0 1 — 2
Scoring—1. Wichita, Bourret 7 (Beauregard, Summers) 5:43. Penalties— Texas, Hand (fighting) 13:13; Wichita, Lizon (fighting) 13:13; Texas, Meadows (interference) 15:59.
Scoring—none. Penalties— Texas, Wild (tripping) :58; Wichita, Russo (delay of game) 6:19; Wichita, Chappell (tripping) 18:07.
Scoring—2. Texas, Woollard 9 (Wild, Curran) 4:20; 3. Wichita, Summers 5 (Beauregard, Martens) 10:32. Penalties— Texas, (too many men on the ice) 5:16; Texas, Meadows (tripping) 12:53.
Shots on goal—Texas 6-8-6—20, Wichita 3-4-12—19.
Power play—Texas 0-2, Wichita 0-4.
Goaltenders—Texas, Silverthorn 17 saves on 19 shots. Wichita, Russo 19 saves on 20 shots.