When Thunder goaltender Adam Russo didn't notch a shutout of Rio Grande Valley on Friday night, he thought his chances of keeping an opponent scoreless this season were badly damaged.
That one goal Friday wasn't indicative of poor odds for a shutout, though. Instead, it signaled Saturday's result, as Wichita kept the Killer Bees out of the net in a 3-0 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Thunder hadn't shut out an opponent since last season, when it accomplished the feat on Feb. 15 against Shreveport-Bossier. Wichita swept the Killer Bees this weekend, outscoring them 7-1.
Forward Thomas Beauregard was more positive about Wichita's chances for a blanking, and he was key in the win. His two goals give him 12 for the year, one ahead of Aaron Davis for the team lead.
"We were joking around about it," Russo said. "I just said (Friday) night, I couldn't buy a shutout if I tried. Beauregard, before that, said this would be the weekend to get one.
"It was in the back of my mind, obviously. It's definitely something that you strive for."
Saturday's win was a boost for a defense that will be without captain Daniel Tetrault, who is expected to miss about two weeks with a lower-body injury.
Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said the team will soon begin scouting for his temporary replacement, but Saturday's performance makes reinforcements seem unnecessary.
The defense didn't need to be bailed out by Russo, as it mostly kept Rio Grande's scorers away from the goal. The shutout was in peril when Rio Grande had a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period, but Wichita managed to turn that disadvantage into a power play within about a minute. The Thunder killed that penalty and Rio Grande was 0 for 3 on power plays.
"We're deep enough," McClelland said. "It's not a great time (for the injury to Tetrault). But we wanted to make sure we put pucks deep and take a little pressure off the defensemen tonight, who were playing a lot of minutes."
Russo said his focus had to intensify with Rio Grande's sporadic attacks.
The Killer Bees went long stretches, especially at the start of the first two periods, with few shots. Their aggressiveness came in flurries, adding up to 20 shots, and Russo was up to the challenge even as he enters uncharted territory.
"That's what I have to get used to now," Russo said. "I'm not going to see the 30 or 40 shots I was seeing in Quad City last year. It's a different game. We've got a good defense corps, a complete defense corps. We're only going to get 20 or 25 shots a game and we have to stay in the game the whole way through."
Davis grabbed Wichita's scoring lead initially, scoring on a 2-on-1 breakway in the first period for his 11th goal. Beauregard tied him in the second period and took the outright lead in the third.
Beauregard's achievement was overshadowed in the final period as a physical game became violent. Eight penalties for fighting or roughing were given, and in the final minutes it wasn't unusual for multiple fights to be going on simultaneously.
The Thunder wore down Rio Grande with two dominating wins, and the fights were the product of two teams spending too much time together.
"Two nights in a row, you usually find that," McClelland said. "Heated battles, and things carry over from the night before. One-hundred-twenty minutes against the same opponent, sometimes that happens."
Rio Grande Valley0 0 0 — 0 Wichita1 1 1 — 3
Scoring—1. Wichita, Davis (Hemingway, Martens), 2:00. Penalties— Wichita, Sawyer (fighting), 1:45; Rio Grande, Hunt (fighting), 1:45; Rio Grande, Rioux (tripping), 14:23.
Scoring—2. Wichita, Beauregard (Bourret), 11:00. Penalties— Wichita, Sawyer (tripping), 11:33; Wichita, Seibel (interference), 12:35; Rio Grand, Klempa (holding), 14:06; Rio Grande, Balan (cross checking), 19:24.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Beauregard (Flath, Russo), 3:13. Penalties— Wichita, Seibel (roughing), 11:10; Rio Grande, Radke (roughing), 11:10; Rio Grande, Bartholomay (high sticking), 12:15; Rio Grande, Balan (fighting), 14:50; Wichita, Chappell (fighting), 14:50; Rio Grande, Radke (roughing), 14:50; Wichita, Greene (roughing), 14:50; Wichita, Bourret (slashing), 16:01; Rio Grande, Hunt (fighting), 16:01; Wichita, Lizon (fighting), 16:01.
Power play—Rio Grande 0 for 3, Wichita 0 for 5
Shots on goal—Rio Grande 9-6-5—20, Wichita 13-7-7—27
Goaltenders—Rio Grande, Murray, 24 saves on 27 shots; Wichita, Russo, 20 saves on 20 shots.