The Wichita Thunder's feel-good preseason continued with a 3-2 shootout victory over the expansion Missouri Mavericks on Saturday night.
After last season's 20-41-3 showing, second-year coach Brent Bilodeau seemingly improved recruiting efforts dramatically, signing several players who have excited the fan base.
The enthusiasm likely only increased with the Thunder's 3-0 victory on Friday, followed by the shootout win in front of a standing room-only crowd of more than 700 fans at the Wichita Ice Center. It marks the first time since 1992-93, the franchise's first year, that the Thunder has won two exhibition games.
"I thought we were a little more sluggish tonight, but we came away with a win," Bilodeau said. "For the weekend, I thought everything was positive."
The Thunder's goals both came courtesy of impressive assists.
On the first, Jason Duda, looking more than a little odd in jersey No. 14, proved he has playmaker skills in any number, sliding a pass past a defenseman to a wide-open Jim Jorgensen, who put the Thunder up 1-0 in the first period. Duda's number change isn't permanent.
"I just wanted to make sure I was open for him," said Jorgensen, a defenseman who played with Phoenix of the East Coast Hockey League last season. "He made a really nice pass. I took my time on the shot and got it in, blocker side."
In the third period, rookie forward Mike Kneeland, who continues to impress, shook a Missouri defenseman and fired a pass to fellow rookie Chris Trafford, who finished for a 2-1 Thunder lead.
"He made an incredible pass, and I just kind of tapped it in," Trafford said. "I can't really take any credit for the goal because he set that up."
After Missouri scored on a breakaway after a Thunder turnover, the game went straight to the shootout — no overtime — and Kneeland, Trafford and Duda scored for Wichita.
Thunder rookie goalie Scott Campbell stopped three of four shots to earn the win. Another rookie, Scott Campbell, started and made nine saves. Gilbert stopped all 30 shots he faced during the preseason.
"Once again, both goalies stood on their heads," Trafford said.
Thunder No. 1 goalie Tim Boron was at the game, but sat out due to illness.