WICHITA, KS – Let this be a lesson for all hockey fans out there, no 6-3 wins are created equal.
The Thunder got offensive contributions from 12 different players, but Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron was less than pleased with the effort.
“I thought the effort was awful,” Cameron said. “With me, it’s about compete, effort and team. I thought we lacked in all three categories tonight. None of those three goals that we gave up should ever have gone in the net, just complete lack of energy.”
Ralph Cuddemi got the scoring started for Wichita, beating Mallards netminder Matt O’Connor low blocker-side with a snapshot and it gave Wichita a 1-0 lead.
One of the things that has changed with the Mallards since the teams last played one another in November is the population of former Thunder players currently in the Quad Cities has increased, substantially. Friday night was a return back to the Vault for Triston Grant, Greg Amlong, Jake Bolton, and O’Connor.
The guy they called “grandpa” on last year’s Thunder squad — Triston Grant — got the Mallards on the board exactly one minute into the second period, potting a rebound that was left in front of Shane Starrett.
It would stay tied at 1-1 through much of the second period, but a pair of defensive lapses in the span of 40 seconds would cost the Mallards. The first came when Travis Ewanyk skated into the Mallards zone unchecked, fired a shot on O’Connor and Colin Martin put the rebound past O’Connor to give Wichita a 2-1 lead.
Chad Butcher added his fourth of the season after Johnny Daniels won a wall battle and Nick Bligh picked the puck out of the scrum. Bligh fired a pretty no-look pass to Butcher who fired it past O’Connor to give Wichita a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.
Travis Brown would get his sixth of the season after firing a bullet over O’Connor’s right shoulder just 2:10 into the period to expand the lead to 4-1.
Gergo Nagy would score his first in a Mallards uniform, beating Starrett five-hole to narrow the lead to 4-2. Seconds later, Kevin Dufour would end O’Connor’s night by scoring his third goal since joining the Thunder, beating O’Connor five-hole and expanding the Thunder lead to 5-2.
The move from O’Connor to Eric Hartzell around the five-minute mark of the third seemed to give the Mallards some jump. After getting several grade-A chances on Starrett all night, Matt Pohlkamp would capitalize on a broken defensive coverage in front of Starrett to make it 5-3.
Quad City would get no closer, however, and it was Lane Bauer who capped off the scoring with an empty-net goal to give Wichita a 6-3 win.
“To see how we worked in Allen in a four-in-five and how we worked tonight, if you were to split screen that you wouldn’t even know it was the same team,” Cameron said. “We had two days off this week, had a brisk practice Wednesday and a short power play practice yesterday…we should have lots of energy. That’s not acceptable to be lazy like that and not be hard on the puck. I think that’s the softest we have been all year.”
With Kalamazoo coming to town for back-to-back contests beginning Saturday night and the season approaching the half-way mark, Cameron said the onus is on each player to be emotionally invested each night:
“It’s not Sunday night pick up hockey where you’re not going to block a shot because you have to go to work Monday morning,” Cameron said. “This is a job where you have to invest emotionally to get the best out of yourself. We’re at game 34 now, it’s not my job to go in there and ride a unicycle with a wig on and juggle to get them motivated for a game.”
NOTES: Bligh finished the evening with three assists, giving him six points (1G, 5A) in seven games in a Thunder uniform…Shane Starrett picked up the win, stopping 27 of 30 Mallards shots…Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin will return to the Thunder lineup tomorrow night after serving his one-game suspension…Travis Brown finished was a Thunder season-high +5 on the night.