Judging by the reaction at Intrust Bank Arena after he scored Saturday’s game-winning goal for the Thunder, Kale Kerbashian’s postgame apology would have fallen flat.
Kerbashian scored with less than two minutes to go in overtime to give the Thunder a 3-2 win over Idaho, which snapped Wichita’s eight-game losing streak.
The 5,232 fans in attendance didn’t seem to care that the Thunder hadn’t had such a dramatic victory at home since early November, when it beat Tulsa in a shootout. There seemed to be no immediate recognition that Wichita had lost its last six games that went beyond regulation.
Saturday night, there was only jubilance, which made the victory that much sweeter for the Thunder and more sentimental for Karbashian.
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“It’s been a tough time,” said Kerbashian, who was traded from Rapid City to Wichita last month. “I think we’re mostly mentally in our own heads. Obviously we want to win for these fans, we feel bad for them. But we’re going, we’re trying. It’s tough. You’d like to have a few more wins.
“…The city should be proud of these guys. Obviously, we’d like to apologize for the (11-31-5-5) record, we’d like to do better. It’s not like we wake up and choose to lose. We’re trying to give it everything we have. It’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day it’s a great group of guys in here.”
The Thunder tied it 2-2 with 11.5 seconds to go on a goal by Kenton Miller. It was the first suggestion that the universe wasn’t yet again working against the Thunder, which lost its previous two games despite allowing four combined goals.
Goaltender Grant Rollheiser left the game with a leg injury 19 seconds in – he was wearing a brace after the game. In the second period, Idaho took the lead after one of its players appeared to kick the puck into the net on a goal credited to Andre Bouvet-Morrissette. After a discussion, officials allowed the goal to stand.
Wichita survived those setbacks to play an energetic third period. It seemed to be headed for naught until Miller’s goal, essentially a desperation attempt with time running out.
“You don’t have time to doubt,” Miller said. “You’re just going and throwing everything on net. I saw the puck loose by Kerbashian and I shot it. (Christian) Isackson claims he touched it, so it’s actually Isackson’s goal, I guess.”
Kerbashian’s overtime goal was easier to discern. After Landon Oslanski emerged with the puck near center ice, he discovered Kerbashian skating across for him with one defender between them.
That defender couldn’t cover both players, so when Kerbashian got the puck from Osklanski, he was alone in front of the net and Idaho goaltender Jack Campbell was out of position, trying to account for both Thunder players. Kerbashian scored easily, the culmination of an exhausting 63-plus minutes.
“In a 3-on-3 overtime, as soon as you stop skating (hard), the other team has a chance so you can’t do that,” Kerbashian said. “I’m pretty tired here. I’m sitting down, obviously.”
The Thunder won four of its first six home games but had won three home games in 19 tries before Saturday. Some of those crowds may have held the team’s rough season against it, but those memories went out the window during the Thunder’s signature victory.
“Oh my gosh, it’s such a relief,” Miller said. “This is exactly what the team needed. If you go into our dressing room, everyone’s ecstatic. That’s the loudest I’ve heard it in the crowd, so it’s lots of fun.”
Penalties—Idaho, Jean (charging goaltender in crease), 8:57.
Scoring—1. Wichita, Nemcik (Huff, Chelios), 7:18; 2. Idaho, Basaraba (Carroll, Jean), 9:41; 3. Idaho, (Bouvet-Morrissette), 12:39. Penalties—Idaho, Basaraba (slashing), 2:52; Wichita, Springer (holding), 15:45; Wichita, Reum (delay of game), 17:10; Idaho, Yuen (tripping), 17:58.
Scoring—4. Wichita, Miller (Kerbashian, Lowe), 19:41. Penalties—Idaho, Panzarella (holding), 1:00.
Scoring—5. Wichita, Kerbashian (Oslanski), 3:05.
Power play—Idaho 0-2, Wichita 0-4. Shots—Idaho 15-14-5-2—36, Wichita 7-9-14-3—33. Saves—Idaho, Campbell 30-33; Wichita, Rollheiser 1-1, Shantz 33-35.
Idaho at Thunder
- When: 5:05 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Intrust Bank Arena
- Records: Idaho 27-20-5-1, Thunder 11-31-5-5
- Broadcast: wichitathunder.com