Thunder coach Kevin McClelland called Friday’s matchup against the Allen Americans the biggest game of the year.
The Thunder could have moved past the first-place Americans in the CHL standings with a win. But Wichita couldn’t get anything going on either end of the rink, and fell 6-2.
“We just wanted to get a win any way we can,” the Thunder’s Jon Madden said, “and I feel like we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get that win, those two points that were huge to take over first place in the league. We got caught up in all the other stuff with the refs, and you can’t do that in games like that it just ends up snowballing.”
Most of the first period was played on Wichita’s defensive third, with Allen firing 14 shots. The Thunder kept Allen scoreless until Todd Robinson crossed the puck to Jim McKenzie in front of the net for an Allen goal with 4:26 remaining.
“Anytime we give up as many shots as we did, that’s not our game,” Madden said. “We’re one of the better defensive teams in this league, and usually we’re the ones putting up 40 shots.”
Brian McMillin gave Allen a 2-0 lead 1:37 into the second period.
Wichita spent much of the period working through penalties. Todd Griffith went to the penalty box for two minutes only a minute after Allen’s goal. Thirty-six seconds after Wichita returned to full-strength, Dave Inman was called for slashing. Thirty seconds after Inman’s penalty ended, Andrew Martens sat out two minutes for holding.
The Thunder killed all three penalties, but could not get a serious attempt at a goal while allowing 14 more shots on goal in the period.
“I don’t think there was a lot of commitment to defense,” McClelland said. “When we’re talking about defense, we’re talking about all the forwards and everything. We had some glaring errors, and we were a little soft, and we didn’t play our typical game.
Allen added two more goals in the first 5:23 of the third.
“It’s the biggest game of the year for sure,” said Kevin Young, who scored the Thunder’s first goal. “It’s for first place, and we just really went out and laid an egg.”
Wichita travels to Tulsa on Saturday and finishes the regular season at home Sunday against Missouri.
“First place isn’t out of our reach yet, we’ve just got to put in a solid effort in our next two games, you never know what could happen,” Young said. “But we want to go into playoffs on a high, so we’re going to try to put a few wins together.”