Only one topic made Wichita Thunder interim coach Jason Duda wince on Sunday night, and, interestingly, it wasn't a lousy first period, or a momentum-killing goal or the suspension of a key defenseman.
Rather, the frustrated response followed the mention of the large crowd that came out for the team's game at Intrust Bank Arena.
Duda grimaced, and then buried his forehead in his hand, because, once again, the Thunder sent the fans home disappointed.
This time, the Thunder lost 5-3 to the sub-.500 Arizona Sundogs in front of 9,074 fans — an attendance figure boosted by a promotion from a local credit union.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Thunder has drawn four crowds over 7,000 at IBA, and lost each game.
In his office after Sunday's setback, Duda said, "The fans were great — again. Yeah, it was an exciting game, but we still lost."
True, the Thunder (8-41-5) at least put on a decent show, rallying from a 4-1 first-period deficit to close to within 4-3 when Tomas Klempa scored early in the third period.
"We were back in the hockey game," Duda said. "We had the momentum."
Less than two minutes later, Arizona's Steve Potvin scored just 15 seconds into a power play for a goal that deflated the Thunder and the crowd.
"It was huge," Duda said.
Thunder goalie Ian Keserich struggled again, giving up four goals on 15 shots, although Duda said two of the scores came on "bad bounces."
"The puck is just finding a way through him right now," Duda said. "It just happens for a stretch sometimes, and hopefully that stretch is over because he's a good goalie."
The highlight for the Thunder came in the second period, when the team killed off four minutes of a Sundog power play, including two minutes of five-on-three.
"The PK's been good," Duda said. "The guys did a great job killing that off."
Notes — Defenseman Steve Makway, who has been suspended indefinitely by the Central Hockey League, sat out for the second straight game. At the end of Friday's 7-1 loss at Mississippi, Makway was called for slashing and cross checking. Duda said Makway deserved a one- or two-game suspension for the slash, but that any further punishment was questionable. Duda was annoyed after Sunday's game that he still didn't know the length of Makway's suspension. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," Duda said. "We're leaving in three hours (on a road trip.)"... Klempa has four points in the past two games. ... Newly added Bobby Hughes has two goals in two games with the Thunder.... Arizona winner Doug Groenestege moved to 11-0 against the Thunder.
Arizona4 0 1 — 5 Home1 1 1 — 3
Scoring—1. Arizona, Mike Jarman (Mike Nesdill, Kyle Hood), 8:54; 2. Arizona, Joey Sides (Konrad Reeder, Matt Hanson) 9:16; 3. Wichita Bobby Hughes (Joel Hanson, Brad Thompson) 10:12; 4. Arizona, Kyle Hood (Evan Shaw, Marc Belanger) 15:06; 5. Arizona, Joey Sides (Adam Smyth, Torren Delforte) 17:46. Penalties— Arizona, Nesdill (tripping) 10:35; Arizona, Potvin (interference) 19:03; Wichita, Clark (goalie interference) 19:14.
Scoring—6. Wichita, Campbell (McAllister, Cooper) 19:30. Penalties—Wichita, Kelly (Slashing) 2:28; Wichita, Clark (Unsportsmanlike Conduct, abuse of officials, misconduct, game misconduct) 5:38; Wichita, McAllister (Interference), 6:27; Arizona, Hood (interference) 11:42; Wichita, Thompson (tripping) 14:11; Arizona, Hood (interference) 14:22; Arizona, Hood (roughing) 19:30.
Scoring — 7. Wichita, Klempa (Hughes, Hanson) 4:16; 8. Potvin (Hood, Winnik) 6:02. Penalties — Wichita, Strome (slashing) 5:41; Arizona, Smyth (hooking) 13:00; Wichita, Bozoian (interference) 16:59; Wichita, McAllister (roughing) 17:16; Wichita, Kelly (roughing) 17:16; Arizona, Potvin (high sticking double minor) 17:16; Arizona, Visser (roughing) 17:16; Wichita, Cooper (tripping) 18:59.
Power play—Arizona 1-9, Wichita 0-6.
Shots on goal—Arizona 15-12-9—36, Wichita 11-14-11—36.
Goaltenders—Arizona, Groenestege 33 saves on 36 shots. Wichita, Keserich 11 saves on 14 shots; Campbell 20 saves on 21 shots.