Adam Russo, the Wichita Thunder's No. 1 goaltender, has made 299 saves. It should be an even 300, Russo admits.
The save he didn't make, although costly, ultimately revealed many positives about the Wichita newcomer. Russo can recover quickly emotionally and physically, and, although an eight-year pro, he is still willing to learn from his mistakes.
Those are good signs for the Thunder, which seems to have the rest of the pieces to challenge for a Central Hockey League championship.
As painful as the memory is, it's necessary to return to the end of the Thunder's game at the Texas Brahmas on Friday night. The score was tied at 2 late in the third period when Kyle Howarth lofted a shot from the face-off dot, Russo recalled.
It was the type of shot that Russo always stops. For reasons Russo still can't explain, the puck got by him, deflecting off his glove and into the net. The Thunder lost 3-2.
For Russo, the emotional sort, there was heartbreak. And, even after he had a day to reflect, he remained mystified.
"I don't know what happened, I honestly don't," he said. "I was feeling good all game long, and then I challenged (the shot), and then I sort of hesitated because I said to myself that it was gonna miss the net. But it hit like the bottom of my glove and went back and hit the opposite post and trickled in.
"It was a bad goal. I definitely take the fault for that loss. Those are points we can't give up."
Thunder coach Kevin McClelland, even keel as always, said "those mistakes are gonna happen sometimes." After conferring with assistant coach Jason Duda, he decided to start Russo the next night when Texas visited Intrust Bank Arena.
Russo was grateful to be back in net.
"I definitely wanted to get right back out there and try to make up for it," he said.
Russo did just that, making 19 saves, including two spectacular ones, in the Thunder's 2-1 victory. Russo admitted to being somewhat wary on the first few glove saves he was required to make.
"Absolutely," said Russo, who has nine wins, third-most in the CHL. "I made sure from the stick to my glove that I followed the puck the whole way through."
Even so, there was Russo-involved drama at the end of the game.
Trying desperately to tie the score, Texas pulled its goalie late and succeeded in forcing the puck low amidst player traffic around the net. The puck disappeared, and a Texas player raised his arms, as if to celebrate a goal, while the Thunder crowd neared panic mode.
Instead of a second night of frustration, however, there was a sign that Russo's luck has changed. Instead of in the net, the puck ended up in his uniform pants, Russo said with a grin.