Wichita Thunder coach Kevin McClelland has created a mindset within his team that keeps it from letting down before the game is over, despite the score. His message was clear in the Thunder’s 4-3 overtime win Sunday against the Missouri Mavericks to complete a three-game sweep.
“Last year, it didn’t matter what the score was, our team could always come back,” McClelland said. “And that’s what we try to build in our practices, our conditioning, and mentally a ‘never quit’ attitude.”
Missouri’s desire to avoid a sweep Sunday was obvious from the beginning of the first period, and only 38 seconds into the game, the Mavericks scored. Wichita goalie Kevin Regan fought off Missouri’s next 12 shots, but the Mavericks slotted a shot past Regan with 2:05 remaining in the first period.
“(Missouri) did come out hard, but our team didn’t,” McClelland said. “At home when we’ve already won the first two games we should be coming out a lot harder than what we did, but they came out and looked like they were the home team.”
Wichita cut Missouri’s lead when Chad Painchaud scored 39 seconds before the end of the first period, but by the end of the period, Missouri had outshot Wichita 17-5.
“We had to show up, and I know it’s tough…but you’ve got to get it done,” McClelland said. “If you’re not going to do it in a game, then we’ll do it in practice, and I sent that message in the first period.”
The Thunder started the second period with more offensive pressure than before. Neil Trimm scored with 13:35 remaining in the period, in a cluster of Thunder players in front of Missouri’s goal. But Missouri answered right away, and regained its lead 33 seconds later.
With a discouraging 3-2 deficit for Wichita late in the third period, Dave Inman took a long shot from the left side of the goal, and Matt Summers redirected it into the goal to tie the game with 5:06 remaining. Inman left with a penalty in the final minutes of the period, but the Thunder held off the Mavericks to take the game into overtime.
“The penalty kill was huge for our team there,” Wichita’s Kevin Young said. “The last two minutes to kill off a penalty in a tied game, we took all of that momentum into overtime.”
Only 32 seconds into the sudden death overtime period, Kevin Young scored a goal to give the Thunder its win.
“I think it was (RG) Flath who was battling on the side of the net and couldn’t seem to get quite a handle on it, and he looked up and saw me and flicked it back, and I closed my eyes and shot it,” Young said. “I think it’s just a matter of work ethic. We’re not getting discouraged when we’re down, we know we’ve got a team in here and we can come back.”