The Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees arrived in Wichita with only two shorthhanded goals. They left town with five.
That's about all the analysis needed to explain the Thunder's unsightly 5-3 loss on Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Thunder's Kevin McClelland had coached 363 games entering Friday night's game, and he couldn't recall one of his teams giving up three shorties.
"Yeah, you're not gonna win a lot of games doing that," he said before forcing a chuckle. "It was individual breakdowns, just little mental errors.
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"You're gonna have some of those, but you gotta be kidding me."
The errors would have been bad under any circumstance, but the mistakes seemed even more embarrassing because a crowd of 10,114 was on hand. It was the second-largest crowd for a Thunder game at IBA since the team moved downtown last season.
"We get a big crowd like that... ," said captain Daniel Tetrault, who shook his head and then seemed to lose his train of thought. "I don't know. It's frustrating.
"When you have a power play, you have to score, not get scored on. Obviously."
Playing with a roster shortened due to suspensions and injury, the Thunder (23-17-4) was nonetheless the aggressor early, taking a 1-0 lead when Troy Schwab, after taking a pass from Lance Galbraith, scored from the slot. The Thunder had an opportunity to extend the lead when it went on a 5-on-3 power play, but a turnover led to Rio Grande's first shorthanded goal, unassisted by Zak McClellan.
"We weren't generating much on that 5 on 3 anyway, but still, that was a real tough one," McClelland said. "We should have that killer instinct to go up 2-0."
Rio Grande scored twice in the second period, one on a shorthanded goal by Aaron Lewicki, who had three points.
Early in the third, the Thunder trimmed the lead to 3-2 when Matt Robinson scored his team-leading 29th goal, but Lewicki responded with another unassisted shortie.
"We're put out there for a reason — to make sure that kind of stuff doesn't happen," defenseman Andrew Martens said.
The Thunder tied a season high by firing 46 shots, compared to just 17 from Rio Grande, but goalie Juliano Pagliero made several outstanding saves for his 17th win.
"Give him credit," Tetrault said.
Due to the fallout from the melee at Fort Wayne, the Thunder played with only 13 skaters. McClelland interrupted a question about how that might have hindered his team.
"It had no effect whatsoever," he said.
Martens agreed. "There can't be any excuses. We have to battle through that."
Notes — The Thunder is 1-1-1 against Bloomington, tonight's opponent. Robinson has four goals and an assist in the three games. The Thunder won last meeting 5-1 on Jan. 8 in a game that had five fights, including three in the third period.
Rio Grande 1 2 2 — 5 Wichita 1 0 2 — 3
Scoring—1. Wichita, Schwab 9 (Galbraith, Wight) 12:02; 2. Rio Grande, McClellan 16 (unassisted) 14:55 sh. Penalties— Rio Grande, D'Amour (hooking) 5:33; Rio Grande, Cheesman (hooking) 12:12; Rio Grande, Radke (cross checking) 12:44; Wichita, Bennefield (goaltender interference) 17:21.
Scoring—3. Rio Grande, Lewicki 15 (Sucharski, Campbell) 3:03 sh; 4. Rio Grande, Cheesman 11 (McClellan) 11:49. Penalties— Rio Grande, Radke (hooking) 1:29; Wichita, Tetrault (holding) 6:27; Rio Grande, Sucharski (hooking) 13:06.
Scoring—5. Wichita, Robinson 29 (Gale, Martens) 6:05; 6. Rio Grande, Lewicki 16 (unassisted) 7:46 sh; 7. Wichita, Looby 5 (Galbraith, Martens) 8:42; 8. Rio Grande, Gendur 10 (Klempa, Lewicki) 12:32. Penalties— Rio Grande, Radke (slashing) 7:10; Wichita, Davis (hooking) 15:29; Rio Grande, Campbell (tripping) 17:26.
Power play—Rio Grande 0-3, Wichita 1-7.
Shots on goal—Rio Grande 4-9-4—17, Wichita 14-13-19—46.
Goaltenders—Rio Grande, Pagliero 43 saves on 36 shots; Wichita, Gelinas 12 saves on 17 shots.