While Tyler Bunz may suit up for the Thunder on Saturday night against Quad City, his presence might not be immediately noticeable.
While Bunz was with Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League, earning a promotion after one of the goaltenders there suffered an injury, Tim Boron became an iron man and a stalwart in goal for Wichita.
Boron has played a season-high seven straight games for the Thunder, often going beyond the call of duty for overtimes and shootouts, and Wichita has won six to inch closer to the top of the ECHL Western Division standings.
What was once a platoon situation has become Boron’s job for the foreseeable future, even with a prospect like Bunz returning and needing minutes in case of another promotion.
“We were waiting for someone to grab the ball and go for a few games there,” Thunder coach Kevin McClelland said after Wichita’s win over Missouri on Tuesday. “Once you get on a roll, you’re going to keep going back in the net. It just so happens that Bunz is open in (Oklahoma) City.
“But if Bunz was here and Boron was still playing like that, he’d still be in there.”
Boron played the first four games of the season but hadn’t played more than two in a row since Nov. 16 and Nov. 18 before his current streak began on Dec. 13 with a win over Rapid City.
Wichita has earned a point in the standings in all seven games, including a shootout loss to Rapid City on Dec. 21. That happened during a stretch of four games in which the Thunder played into overtime or a shootout.
Wichita won in a shootout for the first time this season against Allen last Saturday, then beat Missouri in overtime three nights later. Boron has played for more than 60 minutes four times over seven games and never allowed more than three regulation goals.
“Throughout the last four years of my career, I’ve played a lot of games,” Boron said. “It’s good to get in a rhythm like that and play a bunch of games in a row, but at the same time all good teams have two goalies. It was good to have two guys, but callups happen and I’m just taking each game and trying to keep the roll going.”
Boron and Bunz likely won’t enter another one-on, one-off situation soon, but Bunz’s return is happening at an opportune time. The Thunder is in a stretch of 10 games in 19 days, so a fresh goaltender will be necessary.
The schedule has probably done favors to Boron, too. He has nursed hip injuries over the last few years and has appeared to be in pain occasionally during the last seven games.
The rest afforded by the earlier platoon helped him play through recent nicks, and Bunz’s return will help Boron continue to manage any nagging discomfort.
“You take it one by one,” Boron said. “I haven’t looked too far ahead in the schedule, but if you have back-to-backs with travel and stuff, it’s nice to have two goalies at the same time. Every good team has two good goalies that can play. It’s whatever happens. If he gets called up, I’ll play whatever game I get called upon. If that means playing a bunch in a row, I’m happy to do that.”
Quad City at Thunder
When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Intrust Bank Arena
Records: Quad City 16-10-3-2, Wichita 15-10-1-4