The prevailing sense of calm inside the Wichita Thunder locker room seemed to have as much to do with Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Rapid City Rush as what ended up happening on the ice.
Trailing 2-0 after the first period and with a four-game winning streak and first place in the Central Hockey League on the line, the Thunder took a thinking man’s approach before coming out and putting it on the Rush.
“It was not a good first period at all, (Rapid City) controlled the play and we weren’t winning the battles we normally do,” Thunder assistant coach Jason Duda said. “It’s good to know that we have guys that, when things are tough or aren’t going our way, that they know there’s always time to turn things around.”
Rapid City struck early, scoring less than three minutes into the first period on a goal from Justin Faryna for a 1-0 lead. The Rush added another goal toward the end of the first period, with Damian Surma beating Torrie Jung over his right shoulder from point-blank range on an assist from Faryna.
“The first goal I lost focus for a second and that should never happen,” Wichita goalie Torrie Jung said. “There’s always talk when we play bad, but we feel like with the way we’ve been scoring, playing in our home barn, we can come back from a 2-0 hole if we start executing.”
RG Flath put Wichita on the board with a goal 4:13 into the second period, beating Rapid City goalie and former Thunder player Tim Boron up close to make the score 2-1.
“(Boron) has had our number when we’ve played him this year,” Flath said. “I think once we got a couple past him you could see our confidence really pick up.”
Matt Robinson tied the score on a power-play goal with 8:31 left in the second and Wichita took a 3-2 lead just over two minutes later when Neil Trimm grabbed the rebound off his own miss and put it past Boron, who was pulled for Danny Battodchio.
“We were talking about the opportunities were were missing and that we needed to play stronger defensively,” Flath said. “Once we were able to chase (Boron) that momentum kind of carried us through the rest of the game.”
The Thunder added a pair of power play goals in the third period — Flath’s second goal and a score from Andrew Martens.
The Thunder finished 3 for 5 on power plays.
Jung shut out the Rush the final two periods, finishing with 21 saves on 23 shots.
With Allen’s loss to Fort Worth, the win put the Thunder in sole possession of first place in the CHL and gave them their third straight game scoring five or more goals.
“We have a lot of guys that can score, so it’s nice not to have to always rely on one line or one guy to do it,” Duda said. “A bad start like that can really bleed into the rest of the game, but credit our guys for not letting that happen.”
Scoring—1. Rapid City, Faryna (Brannon, VanderVeeken) 2:58; 2. Rapid City, Surma (Faryna) 17:14. Penalties—None.
Scoring—3. Wichita, Flath (Summers, Hanson) 4:13; 4. Wichita, Robinson (Lowe, Lutz) 11:20; 5. Wichita, Trimm (Robinson, Martens) 13:55. Penalties—Rapid City, Lee (too many men); Wichita, Robinson (too many men); Rapid City, Weselowski (tripping); Rapid City, Sawyer (interference).
Scoring—6. Wichita, Flath (Summers, Hanson) 6:25; 7. Wichita, Martens (Summers, Hanson) 15:16. Penalties—Rapid City, Brown (tripping); Wichita, Hanson (handling the puck); Rapid City, Behler (tripping); Wichita, Trimm (holding); Rapid City, Brown (fighting); Wichita, Lowe (fighting).
Power play—Rapid City 0 for 3; Wichita 3 for 5.
Shots—Rapid City 10-4-9—23; Wichita 9-13-11—33.
Saves—Rapid City, Boron 18 saves on 21 shots, Battochio 10 saves on 12 shots; Wichita, Jung 21 saves on 23 shots.