Welcome to a new feature, called the Wichita Thunder Weekly Wrap, where I look back at the previous week of Thunder hockey and some of the storylines for the week ahead.
Last Week’s Results (Home team in CAPS):
Friday: Thunder 2 @ QUAD CITY 4
Saturday: Thunder 0 @ MISSOURI 1
Sunday: Missouri 2 @ THUNDER 1
This Week’s Schedule (Home team in CAPS):
Tuesday: Wichita @ ALLEN 7:05pm Allen Event Center
Wednesday: Tulsa @ WICHITA 7:05pm INTRUST Bank Arena
Friday: Missouri @ WICHITA 7:05pm INTRUST Bank Arena
Saturday: Missouri @ WICHITA 7:05pm INTRUST Bank Arena
Shantz’s Hot Weekend: While he has been the “tough-luck” loser in three of the team’s four contests against the Mavericks, Thunder goaltender David Shantz has been one of the team’s stars in every single outing. In three games against Missouri, Shantz has saved 92 of 98 shots, has a .939 save percentage and a 2.02 goals against average. This past weekend, Shantz allowed three goals on 66 shots faced and had many great saves, including this beauty:
The Roaring 20s: The group of Peter Sakaris, Mason Baptista, Andy Huff and Anthony Deluca were key components in helping Wichita claw back into the game against Missouri Sunday night. Baptista scored his third goal of the season at 16:20 of the second period Sunday night, pulling the Thunder to within one goal.
“They were skating, hounding the puck and right now, we are putting a lot of pressure on those guys to score,” said Thunder head coach Kevin McClelland.
“We developed that urgency, got pucks to the net, we did the things we need to on a consistent basis,” Baptista said. “We simplified the game, got pucks deep, win battles, get pucks to the net…that’s what’s going to score us goals.”
So far this season, the 20-something quartet of Sakaris, Baptista, Deluca and Huff have combined for 24 of the team’s 51 points (47%) and eight of the 21 goals scored so far (38.1%).
Schedule Maker Unkind: The Thunder are mired in their toughest scheduling stretch of the season, seven games in nine nights. In his post game comments to The Sin Bin after Sunday night’s loss to Missouri, the Thunder head coach said the team was gassed after travel and playing three games in 72 hours.
“We gotta a week of hell coming up right now,” McClelland said.
With an absurd four games in five nights on the docket this week, the Thunder coach said his message to the team is for them to rest up: “We’re in the middle of a 7-in-9. It’s very difficult for a professional athlete to play up to his ability for seven games in nine nights,” McClelland said. “I knew looking at the schedule at the beginning of the year, this would be our tough stretch. I just hope it doesn’t kill us for the rest of the season.”
Injuries Mounting: The Thunder played much of Sunday’s third period with four defenseman. Dan Milan was injured in the game’s opening minutes and Theo Peckham missed the last half of the third period. It is not known if either will play Tuesday night when the team takes on Allen. Defenseman Ryan Ruikka is on reserve and the team could bring someone in on defense this week.
Power Outage: Wichita has not scored in their last 15 power play chances and have sunk to the bottom of the ECHL in power-play efficiency at 5.1% (2-for-39 on the man-advantage.)
Strong Penalty Kill: The Thunder have managed to go 20-for-20 on the home-ice penalty kill this season, while the team has only allowed five power-play goals on 44 opportunities so far this season. That converts to an 88.6% kill rate, good for fifth in the ECHL.
Mac’s Milestone: Kevin McClelland is nearing a Thunder milestone. The former Stanley Cup champ is nearing 200 wins as the bench boss in the Air Capital. In 344 games, he has gone 180-130-35 in six seasons behind the Thunder bench and is the Thunder’s all-time winningest coach. Overall, he is 367-236-61 in 11 seasons as a professional head coach.