PARK CITY — The Wichita Thunder has by far the Central Hockey League's worst power play — a weakness that was more noticeable, and costly, than ever on Saturday night.
Trailing 3-2 against Missouri, the Thunder had the benefit of a five-minute man advantage after Jeff Christian's controversial elbowing major.
It was the perfect time for a momentum-changing goal.
Instead, the pass-happy power-play produced only boos.
Shortly after the failed effort, Missouri scored, sending the free-falling Thunder to a 6-2 loss in the Kansas Coliseum.
"We make mistakes that guys shouldn't be making at this level," interim coach Jason Duda said. "It's obviously tough for everybody to watch. You know, I don't know what to do except make changes. We've had basically the same personnel since the beginning of the year.
"I don't know, maybe it's me. I don't understand how we can continue to make mistakes on things you learn when you're 8, 10 years old."
The Thunder (3-21-3) has lost 14 straight games, putting more distance between itself and the team record of 12. Adding to the franchise misery, the loss was the team's eight straight at home — another Thunder record for futility.
"No one wants to look back and know they were part of such a terrible run," said rookie Brandon Kaleniecki, who had a goal and an assist. "Somehow we have to get ourselves out of this."
Missouri put the finishing touches on the victory with a shorthanded goal with just 53 seconds left, further frustrating what fans were left. Boos have been commonplace, but there was more participation and volume than at any game in the Coliseum this year.
"We're frustrated, fans are frustrated, management is frustrated," Kyle Bruce said. "We've got to figure this out ourselves. No one is gonna do it for us."
The Thunder entered the game with a 9.5 power-play percentage and went zero for five on Saturday. Bruce called the failure on the five-minute man-advantage "huge" in terms of the game's outcome.
Duda said his team moved the puck better on the power play but passed up too many opportunities to get the puck to the net.
"You gotta shoot it — shoot, shoot, shoot," he said.
As has often been the case this season, the Thunder trailed early as Missouri scored two goals in 19 seconds, the last coming on Jeff Christian's score at the 16:24 mark. After Christian's goal, Duda pulled starting goalie Jon Horell in favor of rookie Scott Campbell.
Duda declined comment on Horrell's play.
The Thunder closed to within one goal twice — at 2-1 when Jason Woll scored and 3-2 when Chris McAllister was credited with his first goal of the season — but never recovered.
The lack of a comeback was hardly surprising given that the Thunder entered the game 0-13-1 when trailing after the first period.
Thanks to the Thunder, Missouri is having some success in its first season in the Central Hockey League. The Independence-based team is 12-14-1, with seven of those victories coming against Wichita.
Notes — Missouri's Tommy Lange was ejected after the second period because he was not listed on the team's lineup card — a mistake caught by Thunder general manager Joel Lomurno.... The Thunder was outshot 21-11 through the first two periods.
Missouri2 1 3 — 6 Wichita0 2 0 — 2
Scoring—1. Missouri, Watson 3 (Lavender, Lewis)16:05 ; 2. Missouri, Christian 12 (Sirota) 16:24. Penalties—Wichita, Woll (interference) 3:20; Missouri, Lavender (holding) 7:00.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Kaleniecki 3 (Henderson, Detulleo) 4:36; 4. Missouri, Sellan 4 (Vandermeer, Maldonado) 5:45; 5. Wichita, McAllister 1 (Kaleniecki) 16:15. Penalties—Wichita, McAllister (cross checking) 7:15; Missouri, Hammond (hooking) 8:09; Missouri, Christian (elbowing major, unsportsmanlike conduct) 17:15; Wichita, Kovalcik (unsportsmanlike conduct) 17:15.
Scoring—6. Missouri, Watson 3 (Hinz) 3:17; 7. Missouri, Christian 13 (Sirota) 15:04; 8. Missouri, Pallardy (unassisted) 19:08 sh. Penalties—Missouri, Christian (hooking) 8:35; Missouri, Burgoyne (hooking) 18:10.
Shots on goal—Missouri 11-10-13—34, Wichita 5-6-11—22.
Power play—Missouri 0-2, Wichita 0-5.
Goaltenders—Missouri, Vincent 20 saves on 22 shots. Wichita, Horrell 9 saves on 11 shots; Campbell 19 saves on 23 shots.