Trailing Allen 4-1 entering the third period Sunday, the Wichita Thunder took action to save its flickering playoff hopes.
The Thunder turned up the heat in the final period, playing a more aggressive style and tying the score with two goals in the final 40 seconds, pumping up the crowd and forcing overtime. The surge carried the Thuder to a shootout, but it wasn’t enough as Allen won 5-4.
“We had to empty the tank in the third period,” coach Kevin McClelland said. “Our second period was not good. They got a couple of soft goals in the beginning, and we were fighting back all night.
“We got it to where we wanted it and tied it up, got to overtime but didn’t get it done.”
After a scoreless five-minute period, Allen converted three of four shots in a shootout and edged the Thunder, eliminating Wichita from playoff contention with three games to play.
A three-goal comeback spurred a rush of excitement at Intrust Bank Arena, which carried through the overtime and into the shootout.
However, only Matt Summers could tally for Wichita, which dampened spirits in the team’s home finale.
The Thunder nearly avoided the shootout when Ian Lowe fired a point-blank shot that was smothered by Allen goalie Bryan Pitton with 2:25 remaining in overtime.
Allen was forceful early, scoring twice in the game’s first nine minutes in an efficient manner, despite only taking six shots in the entire first period.
“Not great goals, but when you give up just six shots in the first period, you should have a better outcome,” McClelland said.
RG Flath got Wichita on the board at the 9:28 mark of the period, but that would be all Wichita could muster until the final period.
Of the eight games Wichita and Allen played this season, three ended in shootouts, with Allen winning two of those. McClelland said it reflects the rivalry between the teams.
“Both teams get up for each other, that’s for sure,” he said. “We had seven games go into overtime last year, and that promotes good games.”
Tomas Klempa began the Thunder’s rally by scoring at the 12:23 mark of the third period with his 16th goal of the season, then immediately getting flattened by Allen’s Ross Rouleau.
“He paid the price,” McClelland said.
Despite standing just 5-foot-8, Klempa doesn’t back down, McClelland said.
“He doesn’t play small,” McClelland said. “He plays big.”
McClelland praised Flath’s line of Summers and Klempa.
“They’ve really come up big lately for us,” he said.
Martens’ tying goal was another example of the leadership he provides as captain, McClelland said.
“He’s been playing like that for years for us,” McClelland said. “He plays a ton and plays every situation. That’s what you get from him every night. He doesn’t quit.”