The Thunder will spend much of the next two weeks on a bus. Not the best news considering recent events.
The transportation for the Central Hockey League’s second-place team suffered an unspecified malfunction after a game Wednesday night against Quad City. The bus and the Thunder spent a little extra time outside Moline, Ill. — enough for the players to extend their sleeping schedule before arriving in Independence, Mo., for Friday night’s game against the Mavericks.
That wasn’t the only way the six-game, four-city road trip got off to a halting start. Wichita lost the opener of the trip to Fort Worth, the night after coach Kevin McClelland gave an enthusiastic speech to ensure the team was ready for the extended time away from home.
The Thunder righted itself Wednesday, beating Quad City and avenging a loss from the night of McClelland’s impassioned sermon.
"We had a little bus issue," said Wichita’s leading scorer, Neil Trimm. "But we’ve arrived in Missouri now with a good rest — maybe more rest than we would have liked — so we’ll have no excuses (Friday).”
Trimm’s presence is one reason why the road trip could become more bearable. With 32 points, Trimm hasn’t separated himself from a group of six players with at least 25, but the 29-year-old forward has emerged as the team’s top scorer through consistency. Trimm owns a team-best 18 goals and his two-goal performance against Quad City on Wednesday helped the Thunder stop a miniature two-game losing streak.
Trimm totaled 80 points for Laredo two seasons ago, so he’s no stranger to being a relied-upon scorer. He’s not quite on pace to match that number, but becoming the leading scorer for a balanced Thunder team for which he’s playing his first season is arguably just as impressive.
"It seems like it changes week to week," Trimm said. "We have a lot of guys, three or four guys that are up there (in scoring).... It’s nice to be in the mix."
The skid-stopping skills of Trimm seemed especially important when Wichita lost the first game following McClelland’s locker-room address, creating an even more urgent environment. Trimm, in a relative slump of his own, broke a four-game scoreless stretch with two goals on four shots, improving his team-best shooting percentage.
A third-straight loss wouldn’t have created a panic, but with the team already on edge and not exactly eagerly anticipating a long road trip, the damage from it could have lingered.
"We obviously expected to win that game (on New Year’s Eve at Fort Worth), you expect to win every game," Trimm said. "You’re disappointed and kind of asking questions about what you personally could have done better. I think everyone on the team was looking in the mirror after that game and wondering what they could have done better.
"We came together (Wednesday) night, had a good team game, a good team defense. We showed ourselves that we’re a better team than we showed in Texas."