When Thunder forward Erick Lizon swung his stick and inadvertently hit Quad City’s Antti Pusa in the face, Lizon may have been momentarily confused about which sport he was playing.
Wichita’s hockey game often resembled baseball on Saturday, with nine players most frequently occupying the playing surface. The game was stocked with penalties and power plays, which produced nearly all of the offense in the Thunder’s 3-2 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
The Thunder won for the seventh time in eight games and hasn’t lost in regulation since Dec. 12, the final defeat in a three-game losing streak. Wichita tied Quad City for second place in the ECHL Central Division with its fourth straight win. Tim Boron has been Wichita’s goaltender for each of the last eight games.
The game-winner was scored in five-on-five with 4:30 to go by RG Flath, who has found plenty of ways to create heroics during the Thunder’s winning stretch. Flath didn’t have a game-winner in any of Wichita’s previous 30 games, missing several as an inactive player, but has provided one in three of the last four.
Flath scored in the fourth round of a shootout with Allen on Dec. 27 to put that game out of reach. Three nights later, he scored as he was falling down to give the Thunder an overtime win.
The Thunder’s last one-goal regulation win came on Dec. 17 at Tulsa. It hadn’t won such a game at home before Saturday. Wichita endured a barrage of shots over the final seconds after the Mallards pulled their goalie for another one-man advantage.
Those more often came from penalties like Lizon’s, after which he immediately apologized.
That moment with the 5-foot-9 Pusa, who is seven inches shorter than the Wichita enforcer, earned a playful “Aww!” from the crowd, but the most audible noises from the seats were collective groans following mounting penalties.
The frequent stoppages hampered the flow but didn’t spur offense, since neither team scored an even-strength goal until Flath’s winner. Quad City’s goals were produced in eight power-play chances, and the Thunder converted 2 of 6. The Thunder’s penalties negated a perceived advantage with Quad City suiting up four fewer players.
Thirteen players were penalized a combined 21 times for 58 minutes of infractions. Lizon’s penalty was potentially the most damaging, as Quad City scored five seconds into the ensuing power play to take a 2-1 lead into the second period.
Wichita, perhaps not surprisingly, earned a power play early in the third and Kenton Miller scored to tie it 2-2.
The Thunder needed power plays to induce some offense, tying its season-low with 22 shots. Wichita hadn’t taken that few shots since the first two games of the season and topped 25 in each of the previous eight games.
Quad City had 32 shots but the Thunder seemed to have more scoring opportunities in even-strength situations. Wichita came close to scoring multiple times in the third before Flath netted his latest difference-maker during a 2-on-1 with Danick Gauthier.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Lowe PP (Wilson, Meland), 17:56. Penalties—Wichita, Lizon (holding), 1:47; Wichita, Trebish (holding), 4:24; Wichita, Reum (hooking), 8:36; Wichita, Trebish (tripping), 8:36; Quad City, Pusa (roughing), 8:39; Wichita, Milan (roughing), 8:39; Quad City, Fox (cross checking), 11:22; Quad City, Christensen (cross checking), 17:09; Quad City, Fiddler (unsportsmanlike conduct bench minor), 17:09; Wichita, Trebish (roughing), 19:50.
Scoring—2. Quad City, Perry PP (Rioux, Fiddler), 7:36; 3. Quad City, Fiddler PP (Christensen, Rioux), 15:34. Penalties—Quad City, Lee (slashing), 1:29; Wichita, Tulupov (unsportsmanlike conduct), 1:29; Wichita, Tulupov (misconduct – continuing altercation), 1:29; Wichita, Miller (slashing), 2:08; Wichita, Trebish (tripping), 5:47; Wichita, Trebish (misconduct – unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:47; Quad City, Rogic (slashing), 8:52; Quad City, Lamoureux (roughing), 12:58; Wichita, Lizon (high sticking), 15:28.
Scoring—4. Wichita, Miller PP (Duval, Wilson), 2:16; 5. Wichita, Flath (Gauthier, Milan), 15:30. Penalties—Quad City, Pusa (boarding), 1:26; Quad City, Lamoureux (holding), 4:59.
Power play—Quad City 2-8, Wichita 2-7. Shots—14-9-9—32, Wichita 6-7-9—22. Saves—Quad City, Mosher 19-22; Wichita, Boron 30-32.