Missouri beat the Thunder 4-1 Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena and Mavericks goalie Shane Owen stopped 36 shots. Just as convincing, according to Wichita coach Kevin McClelland, was the Thunder’s performance.
“We didn’t do anything tonight, know what I mean?” McClelland said. “We didn’t expect that. Well, we knew they were going to play a patient game and wait for opportunities.”
Those opportunities came for Missouri via the power play, a rare occurrence in a game where the whistles didn’t necessarily match the physicality, even though the teams couldn’t consistently maintain the tone set after a first-period fight.
The Mavericks play a plodding, composed style with the puck, except when they gain a one-man advantage as Wichita gave them twice on Friday.
Missouri converted both chances, a statistic that told the difference between Owen and counterpart David Brown, who played well in goal but couldn’t bail out an occasionally inattentive defense.
Wichita’s defensive breakdowns occurred when the Mavericks were at their most aggressive. Missouri finally converted on its first power play after several near misses and rebound attempts to take a 2-1 lead in the second.
After an ill-timed hooking penalty by Ian Lowe in the second half of the third period, when the Thunder desperately needed momentum, Missouri scored again on special teams, then added an empty-net goal with about a minute to go.
The Mavericks rank second in the Central Hockey League in power-play conversion rate but sixth out of 10 in shots, a contradiction the Thunder failed to figure out with its eighth-best penalty-killing unit.
“They got one late on the first power play with a forward on top – (we) just didn’t do the job,” McClelland said. “The last one, our defenseman, I don’t know what the heck he was doing. You’ve got to take away that backdoor play, but it wasn’t there.”
Wichita’s most enlivened stretch occurred before the Mavericks began to pull away, but Owen made sure it became just as fruitless as much of the previous 40 minutes.
The Thunder seemed game to tie the score early in the third, when it reversed the pace by frequently attacking the net that Owen continuously protected. Wichita got seven shots to Owen in the first six minutes of the third period but four in the last 14 minutes, which included one of two Thunder power plays.
Missouri already led 3-1 when Wichita went on the power play, but the Mavericks dominated those two minutes, frequently clearing the puck then controlling it to score on an unoccupied goal.
“You’ve got to keep it going, and you can’t leave it until the third period all the time,” McClelland said.
The Thunder had won the previous five meetings against Missouri, all by a single goal, after the Mavericks took the first two. Wichita had played nine games in the previous 16 days, winning seven, but couldn’t recapture momentum in its first game in six days.
“It should have given us time to rest and come out hard,” McClelland said. “We had guys who didn’t practice all week and were game-time decisions. Maybe we should have just kept them out of the lineup. We’re a team that rebounds. We better, because every time we lose we make it harder.”