With 2:34 remaining in Saturday’s Game 2 of the Central Hockey League first-round playoff series, the Arizona Sundogs finally got a shot on goal in the third period.
Not exactly a memorable moment for the Sundogs, but it was just one more example of how the Wichita Thunder’s defense dominated in its 3-0 win.
The victory gave the Thunder a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series.
The Thunder outshot Arizona 33-11, giving up two shots in the final period — both in the final 2:34. It was goaltender Torrie Jung’s first postseason shutout.
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“I think we’ve had the same (defensive) corps all year,” Thunder defender Nathan Lutz said. “We work well together. We have a lot of veteran guys back there who have patience, have experience.”
Coach Kevin McClelland praised his team’s handling of Arizona’s forechecking, which bothered the Thunder in Game 1.
“They were coming pretty hard,” he said. “They’re a team that likes to dump it in and come hard and cause a lot of havoc on the forecheck. They were shutting down the walls on us and we had to make different options for the guys out there.”
A defensive key, always, was Travis Wight, who McClelland referred to as a defensive cornerstone.
“Before the playoffs started, we talked about we need to block shots, get in shooting lanes, we have to be moving, active sticks and just sacrificing,” Wight said.
He then noted that such play is not limited to defenders, noting a key span by forward Ian Lowe.
“When Ian Lowe actually lost his stick for the whole shift, he was getting in front of one of their D men, and he just couldn’t get a shot. And when he finally did, (Lowe) blocked it and (Matt Summers) went down and scored,” Wight said.
The Thunder’s ability to control the puck, even short-handed, was critical because of several squandered power-play opportunities. The team’s first goal finally came on an Arizona power play 6:20 into the third period.
“We have a great penalty kill,” Lutz said.
While Lowe’s goal allowed the Thunder a little breathing room, after giving up two third-period goals to force overtime in Game 1, there was no relaxing.
Then came Summers’ breakaway goal. In a one-on-one with Arizona goalie David Brown, Summers sneaked it in under the crossbar.
Brown had played an outstanding game as he dealt with a barrage of Thunder shots. But Summers’ shot was too tough.
“We killed the penalty plays pretty well, and to get that goal, it was huge,” McClelland said. “You know that team’s going to keep coming, though, so the second goal was even bigger. That’s Summers. When he’s in it alone on the goaltender, he’s pretty good. He’s got a good nose for the back of the net.”
Les Reaney scored the final goal after Arizona pulled Brown.
Scoring – None. Penalty – Meyers, Arizona (high sticking), 14:38.
Scoring – None. Penalties – McCready, Arizona (high sticking), 1:39; Lutz, Wichita (elbowing), 7:41; McCready, Arizona (slashing), 13:35; Donaghy, Wichita (slashing), 19:47.
Scoring – Lowe, Wichita (power play, Andrew Martens, Chad Painchaud), 6:20; Summers (Matt Robinson, Jon Madden), 12:56. Penalties – Reaney, Wichita (roughing), 2:21; Kyrzakos, Arizona (hooking), 2:31; Linden, Arizona (holding), 3:03; Lutz, Wichita (roughing), 3:03; Kyrzakos, Arizona (cross checking), 5:28; Reaney, Wichita (high sticking), 16:22.
Power plays – Arizona 0 for 4, Wichita 1 for 5.
Shots – Arizona 6-3-2—11; Wichita – 11-10-12 – 33.
Goalies – Arizona, Brown 30 on 32 shots. Wichita, Jung 11 on 11 shots.
T — 2:21. A — 3,369.