WICHITA, KS – It was a tale of two games for the Wichita Thunder.
Let’s start with the good.
The Thunder capped off their first three-in-three of the season Sunday afternoon playing the Fort Wayne Komets, the third best team in the midwest division.
The Komets, likewise, came into the game playing the last of a six-game road trip and three-in-three.
Wichita started the game with the jump, beating the Komets to loose pucks and forcing the issue physically. It paid off when Alexis Loiseau jumped on a loose puck and beat Eric Hartzell through the five-hole with a pretty goal to give Wichita the 1-0 lead at the 8:42 mark of the opening period.
From there, the Komets seemed to stabilize. That is, until the first ten minutes of the second period.
Logan Nelson scored the first of this two goals on the night, a power-play marker, to give Wichita 2-0 lead. Then, just 2:18 later, Loiseau scored his second of the night, on a beautiful deke that faked out Hartzell to expand the Thunder lead to 3-0. Minutes later, Blake Tatchell would add another goal, firing a one-timer that beat Hartzell up high and give Wichita a 3-0 lead.
After the goal, Komets’ head coach Gary Graham yanked Hartzell and put in Keegan Asmundson, who was given a rather rude welcome. Nelson got behind the Komets defense and roofed a shot over Asmundson to give Wichita a 5-0 lead.
Wichita would need every last goal of the five they scored.
After a near line brawl at the 8:19 mark of the period that saw 30 of the game’s 56 penalty minutes handed out, Fort Wayne began to assert themselves offensively.
The Komets got on the board at the 14:21 mark of the period, capitalizing on a Tatchell turnover. He was skating the up the ice when he passed the puck right to a Komets player. The end result was David Friedmann scoring in a net-mouth scramble.
“I thought we played good until they got their first goal,” Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron said. “That was a bad decision and you could see the engines start to shut down.”
So could the Komets. And from there, the pressure on Thunder netminder Scott Greenham continued to mount through the rest of the second period. But with each shot fired his way, Greenham was equal to the task.
The pressure continued to build in the third period and Jamie Schaafsma made it 5-2 at the 3:29 mark and helped get Fort Wayne back into the game. Shawn Szydlowski tallied his sixth of the year minutes later to cut the lead to 5-3.
After Wichita went up 5-0, the Komets were gifted with a 5-to-1 power play advantage, including two power play chances in the game’s final 3:30, which helped them generate momentum to come back into the game.
In his postgame remarks, Cameron cited the game on November 4th against Utah and Friday night’s game against Tulsa as points where his club didn’t stay on the gas long enough. On both occasions, the team was up and allowed the opponent to come back into the games.
“What happens when you give up one…you’re still okay,” Cameron said. “But then all of a sudden, they score two. And if it’s happened to you before where you have to hang on, you always have that in the back of your mind and you start to panic and play without poise and try and do too much, then everyone gets off their game plan.”
“If we want to earn respect from your opponents — which we have not done yet because of the last couple of seasons here — if we want to earn that respect, we are going have to close out games greasy and the hard way. You have to play with poise and steady to do that,” Cameron said.
Wichita set a new high for goals scored in a period with four in the second. Loiseau finishes out the weekend with his second three-point game (2g, 1a) and six points in three games (4g, 2a). Tatchell recorded his first goal as a pro. Nick Trecapelli had a pair of assists and points in his last three (2g, 3a).
Greenham improves to 4-1-0-0, stopping 43 of 46 shots. Hartzell takes the loss, stopping 12 of 16 shots he faced.
Wichita went 1-for-4 on the power play and has a power play goal in five-straight games. Fort Wayne went 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
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