Losing a two-goal lead in the third period may have been what the Thunder needed to finally feel comfortable.
Wichita has settled into a routine of overtimes and shootouts, and it played beyond regulation for the fourth straight game Tuesday against Missouri. RG Flath scored his second-straight game-winner with an overtime goal that gave the Thunder a 3-2 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
Flath scored the shootout goal on Saturday that broke Wichita’s string of four consecutive shootout losses, but he preserved a more favorable trend on Tuesday – Wichita has won five of six games, all with Tim Boron in net.
The Thunder (14-10-1-4) is in a stretch of 11 games in 21 days, so any more extra time might not do Wichita any favors. For now, though, Wichita is finding wins where they previously hadn’t come.
“It’s luck of the draw sometimes,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said. “We should have maybe not gone to overtime tonight, we made a couple of glaring errors. But that’s what it is, a 60-minute game. Tonight, nothing was settled in 60 minutes so we had to go to overtime.”
Boron has allowed more than two regulation goals once over the last six games, so Wichita’s lead appeared safe when it grew to 2-0 on Ian Lowe’s power-play goal in the third period.
The Thunder’s defense limited Missouri’s scoring opportunities, but that area of Wichita’s game fell apart down the stretch. Sebastian Thinel scored two goals for Missouri, reaching 1,000 career points, without much resistance.
Thinel shot from between the circles with no traffic in front of him, and it slid under Boron’s legs for Missouri’s first goal with fewer than six minutes to play.
Three minutes later, Thinel went untouched into the crease to tie it 2-2. Boron tried to cut him off, but Thinel juked around him and created an empty net. The goals were damaging at the time but ultimately didn’t faze Boron or his teammates.
“Once you get to overtime, anything can happen,” Boron said. “I just focus on my job. I said, if I keep the puck out of the net, we’re going to win this game. (Ian Lowe) made a nice play driving to the net, and Flather ended up banging the rebound home and getting us the win.
“Anything can happen in overtime, but I was just focusing on keeping the puck out of my end.”
Flath scored falling down, but he immediately leapt up after his shot got by Maxime Legace. The Thunder hasn’t lost in regulation in 19 days, putting behind it a three-game losing streak that essentially evened up its record.
Wichita has scored one more goal than its opponents but has a winning record because it has reversed its fortunes in close games. The Thunder has won three of the last four games decided by one goal.
“It’s a part of hockey, and this league is tight,” Boron said. “There’s a lot of parity in this league, so you’ve got to expect to get to overtime and sometime some shootouts quite a bit because all the teams are so evenly matched.”
First period—None. Penalties—Missouri, Courtney (goalie interference), 4:58; Wichita, Tulupov (hooking), 16:45.
Second period — 1. Wichita, Gauthier (Miller, Lowe), 17:37. Penalties—Missouri, Darrigo (removing the helmet), 2:24; Missouri, Darrigo (fighting major), 2:24; Wichita, Lizon (removing the helmet), 2:24; Wichita, Lizon (fighting major), 2:24; Missouri, Brittain (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:29; Wichita, Milan (unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:29; Wichita, Reum (tripping), 19:47.
Third period—2. Wichita, Lowe PP (Duval, Walker), 11:57; 3. Missouri, Thinel (Sparks, Courtney), 14:43; 4. Missouri, Thinel (Alber, Sparks), 17:28. Penalties—Missouri, Brittain (too many men bench minor), 0:44; Wichita, Gauthier (too many men bench minor), 1:50; Wichita, Tulupov (boarding), 9:43; Missouri, Courtney (roughing), 10:51.
Overtime—5. Wichita, Flath (Lowe, Meland), 3:31.
Power play—Missouri 0-4, Wichita 1-3.
Shots—Missouri 8-6-5-0—19, Wichita 4-10-9-3—26.
Saves—Missouri, Legace 23-26; Wichita, Boron 17-19.