Wichita Thunder

Huge rally saves Thunder

Wichita Thunder coach Kevin McClelland, frustrated with the team's performance, set the simplest of goals for his players before a power-play opportunity late in the second period on Sunday.

Get a shot on net. Just one.

"We couldn't even do that," McClelland said. "It was terrible."

And "terrible" was probably too kind.

Wichita entered the game with the Missouri Mavericks on a three-game losing streak, and No. 4 appeared a certainity when the listless Thunder headed into the dressing room, with a few boo birds expressing their feelings, down 3-1 after two periods.

But in one of the most-impressive turnarounds in recent memory, the Thunder scored six third-period goals, including two by Jesse Bennefield, to rally past the Mavericks 7-4 in front of 3,871 fans at Intrust Bank Arena.

It was a satisfying victory for the Thunder, which fired 52 shots but lost 6-5 at Tulsa on Saturday. Wichita improved to 12-12-2. The Mavericks, based in Independence, Mo., had their five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 15-8-3.

"We needed a win like this," McClelland said. "Our last three losses have been demoralizing. We've been playing some unbelievable hockey and not getting any results."

Captain Daniel Tetrault said the team may have been suffering from a hangover after that Christmas Day loss in Tulsa.

"The last half of the first and the second, we were just flat," Tetrault said. "Guys were putting their heads down, being negative. I think we started feeling sorry for ourselves.

"It's time for us to step up now and get a winning streak going. That's the No. 1 thing. We just have to believe we are a good hockey team. Sometimes, we don't believe it."

McClelland made a couple tweaks — he changed lines by switching A.J. Gale and Troy Schwab — and moved defenseman Steven Kaunisto up to forward. McClelland said he thought that move, and the fact that "we finally started skating," allowed for the Thunder's big third period.

"Sometimes, you just need some kind of a spark," he said.

With the Thunder trailing 4-3 in the third period, Kory Scoran ripped a shot from the point on the power play past Missouri goalie Rob Nolan, who entered the game with a 1.87 goals-against.

At the 12:06 mark, Gale set up the biggest goal of the game when he slid a pass across the crease to Bennefield. The puck popped into the air, and Bennefield, using a baseball swing, smacked it in for the game-winner and his team-leading 14th goal.

"I saw it in the air, and I figured I better take a whack at it," he said. "The first thing I did was look at the ref and make sure it wasn't too high and he said 'good goal.' I was happy about that."

Later in the period, after he was slashed on a breakaway, Bennefield scored on a penalty shot.

Andrew Davis scored an empty-net goal for a punctuation mark on the win.

"That was a good hockey game tonight," Bennefield said. "It was good entertainment for the fans, and it was good to pull out a win like that in our building."

Notes — Travis Wight's first goal of the season was a big one. Looking like a goal-scorer, he beat Nolan on a wrap-around to tie the game at 3.... The Thunder's first four goals were scored by defensemen: Tetrault, Andrew Martens, Wight and Scoran.... The Thunder outshot Missouri 22-2 in the third period.... The two teams play tonight in IBA.

Missouri2 1 1 — 4 Wichita1 0 6 — 7

First period

Scoring—1. Wichita, Tetrault 3 (Robinson) 10:39; 2. Missouri, Vandemeer 2 (Jardine, Ruwe) 12:19; 3. Missouri, Sirota 12 (Pallardy, Filion) 16:51. Penalties—Missouri, Vandemeer (hooking) 6:22; Wichita, Greene (charging) 13:30.

Second period

Scoring—4. Missouri, Watson 8 (Pallardy) 13:37 pp. Penalties—Missouri, Nolan (roughing) 6:24; Wichita, Bennefield (holding) 11:23; Missouri, Pallardy (holding) 16:25;

Third period

Scoring—5. Wichita, Martens 6 (Bennefield) 1:05; 6. Wichita, Wight 1 (Galbraith, Tetrault) 5:04; 7. Missouri, O'Nabigon 2 (Sirota) 5:31; 8. Wichita, Scoran 9 (Robinson, Martens) 7:39 pp; 9. Wichita, Bennefield 14 (Gale, Hughes) 12:06 pp; 10. Wichita, Bennefield 15 16:31 ps; 11. Wichita, Davis 9 (Galbraith, Schwab) 18:48 en. Penalties—Missouri, Pallardy (holding) 2:34; Missouri, Lewis (boarding) 7:02; Missouri, Pallardy (delay of game playing with a broken stick) 10:54; Wichita, Schwab (holding the stick) 16:38.

Power play—Missouri 1-3, Wichita 2-6.

Shots on goal—Missouri 8-9-2—19, Wichita 8-5-22—35

Goaltenders—Missouri, Nolan 28 saves on 34 shots. Wichita, Gelinas 15 saves on 19 shots.