PARK CITY — They'd be calling this one an instant classic, one to remember, a fine way to bid farewell — if only the Wichita Thunder had managed to hold on for what would have been a stunning upset.
Instead, there was simply another loss. More disappointment. Even heartache this time.
Playing its final game in the Kansas Coliseum, the Thunder carried a 1-0 lead into the third period against Odessa, the Central Hockey League's top team, but faltered late and lost 3-1 on Saturday night in front of 5,556 fans.
Interim coach Jason Duda, who seldom hands out praise after losses, was surprisingly positive.
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"That was the best team in the league, and we had 'em," he said. "We had 'em. The guys played good. We worked hard."
Moral victory or no, Wichita continued its depressing march toward league history.
The Thunder (3-27-3) has lost 20 consecutive games, one short of tying Memphis' league record set in 1999-2000. The losing streak at home reached 12, also one away from a CHL mark.
With fans still upbeat after a classy unveiling of the all-Kansas Coliseum team, the Thunder surprised by scoring early.
Kyle Bruce fired a cross-ice pass to Brent Ottmann, who handled the feed just to the right of the goalie and scored 2 minutes, 5 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead.
Thanks to outstanding play from goaltender Ian Keserich, who continues to impress, and solid work from the penalty kill, the Thunder had fans thinking upset into the third.
But Odessa (26-6-3) evened the score when Kenny Bernard won a battle for the puck in the corner before finding Mike Ramsay in front of the net. Ramsay finished from the slot at the 3:41 mark, deflating the hopeful crowd.
More depressing was the game-winner, which came on a shorthanded goal with 3:52 left in the game.
The 6-foot-2 Keserich stopped an initial two-on-one break with a slide to his left, but he said he then lost sight of the puck. Still, he made at least two more impressive saves before Ramsay emerged from the scramble to score again from in close.
Despite the outstanding effort, Keserich blamed himself.
"I wish I had that one back," said Keserich, who dropped to 0-4 but saw his saves percentage improve to .925. "I wish I could go back in time.
"Every shot is stoppable."
Odessa added an empty netter for the final margin.
During the lengthy losing streak, the Thunder has suffered numerous close losses — 10 have come by two goals or less.
But Saturday's loss, because it looked like the Thunder might pull off the upset, because it was the final game after 18 years in the Brown Barn, seemed to be the most deflating.
"Yeah, that one hurt pretty bad," Keserich said.
Notes — The Thunder made its third trade in 10 days, dealing Marc Belanger to Arizona for rookie center Jason Reese. Reese has four goals and 12 points in 26 games. Belanger had 15 points in 31 games.... The all-Kansas Coliseum team, as selected by the Thunder, was introduced before the game. It was made up of forward Duda, the Thunder's career leader in games played (730) and points (870); forward Travis Clayton, who played 11 seasons in Wichita and is second in games and points; forward Tom Roulston, who played on the Thunder's second championship team and also for the Wichita Wind; defenseman Sean O'Reilly, career leader among blueliners with 169 points and a member of three playoff teams; defenseman Brad Knelson, who played three seasons for the Wichita Wind, making the playoffs twice; and goalie Bobby Desjardins, CHL rookie of the year, MVP and a workhorse on the Thunder's first championship team. Only Clayton, who now plays for Bossier-Shreveport, wasn't on hand for the pregame ceremony and raising of the banner.
Odessa0 0 3 — 3 Wichita1 0 0 — 1
Scoring—1. Wichita, Ottmann 3 (Bruce, Jorgensen) 2:05; Penalties— Odessa, Plante (tripping) 2:46; Wichita, Ottmann (tripping) 6:11; Wichita, Adamek (cross checking) 13:35; Wichita, Detulleo (hooking) 17:55; Wichita, Makway (cross checking, roughing) 19:28.
Scoring—None. Penalties— Wichita, Bruce (roughing) 4:08; Odessa, Swiniarski (interference) 4:08; Odessa, Gruenke (boarding) 4:49; Odessa, Karlander (interference) 5:11; Odessa, Leveille (unsportsmanlike conduct) 18:30.
Scoring—2. Odessa, Ramsay 13 (Bernard) 3:41; 3. Odessa, Ramsay 14 (Bernard) 16:08 sh; 4. Odessa, Bernard 17 (Ramsay, Plante) 19:53 en. Penalties— Wichita, Kelly (tripping) 10:09; Odessa, Circelli (roughing) 12:26; Odessa, Pierce (hooking) 15:08.
Shots on goal—Odessa 11-10-14-35, Wichita 4-8-12-24.
Power play—Odessa 0-6, Wichita 0-6.
Goaltenders—Odessa, Toivonen 23 saves on 24 shots;Wichita, Keserich 32 saves on 34 shots.