WICHITA, KS – Wichita Thunder head coach Malcolm Cameron has seen enough.
Sitting in his office after Sunday’s 6-4 loss to Alaska, he immediately asked that the video of the third period be brought down to him.
“We are gonna watch the third period again,” Cameron said.
Cameron saw what the crowd of 5,084 witnessed, his team have a complete lack of aggression and competitiveness in front of their net and goaltender Scott Greenham.
“It’s physicality,” Cameron said. “Sticks are the things that score in front of the net. It doesn’t do you any good to just stand there beside the guy and exchange pleasantries with him. Put him on his ass! Get his stick off the ice. We just stand there and let them beat it in on our goaltender. I don’t understand it….we don’t score goals that way.”
The Thunder head coach said every goal, including the empty-netter, was a soft goal.
“I’m absolutely sick of watching teams score within a foot in front of our net,” Cameron said. “I’ve never coached a team in 19 years that has surrendered that many goals, this early in the season, one foot in front of the net.”
Cameron was pleased with the first 50 minutes of the game, saying the team had changed their systems and held the Aces to chances from the outside. The defensive changes were working, Wichita held Alaska to 25 shots and just two goals in that time frame. Offensively, the Thunder coach lauded his team for getting deeper penetration in the offensive zone, having higher quality shots, being physical, and managing the puck better.
Wichita was finally able to solve Michael Garteig just over halfway through the first period as Nick Trecapelli fired a shot from the right circle that gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead. Alaska answered quickly, getting a goal from Daniel Moynihan at 13:01 that tied it at one. With 38 seconds left in the frame, Alexis Loiseau scored his first of two, coming up the right wing and whistling a shot over Garteig’s glove for a 2-1 advantage.
Loiseau added his second just three minutes into the second, getting a great pass from Logan Nelson in the blue paint and pushed the lead to 3-1. Tommy Olczyk cut it to one just past the midway point of the second period, scoring his second goal of the weekend to make it 3-2.
But what happened in the final 10 minutes?
“We had tons of chances to make it 4 or 5 to 1 and we didn’t finish…stick the nail in the coffin,” Cameron said. “We had two breakaways; a 3-on-1, a 2-on-1, one more would have been the game and then…we started to play soft. We stopped skating again, we stopped forechecking and stopped backchecking.”
Alaska’s comeback bid started at 9:43 of the final frame as Stephen Perfetto scored the first of four third-period goals. Tim Wallace gave the Aces their first lead of the night at 15:41 with a wrist shot from the right hash mark between the circles. The Thunder responded as Nathan Moon bounced a puck off of Aces goaltender Michael Garteig from behind the goal line that tied the game at four. 36 seconds later, Garet Hunt scored his first of the year and proved to be the game-winner. Peter Sivak added an empty-net tally that closed the scoring at 6-4.
“That’s soft hockey and I’m making changes,” Cameron said. “That’s not a threat, that’s reality. I can’t take it anymore. Twelve games into the season, if I don’t do it and I expect different, shame on me. That’s insanity. Guys are showing me that they just can’t do it.”
“You don’t need to be experienced – everybody has battled in front of their net, you’ve been doing it since you were five years old. That just comes with grit and a compete level. You’ve got to hate to get scored on. We don’t hate it.”
Wichita continues their six-game homestand against the Tulsa Oilers, Wednesday night at 7:05pm. Join Zach Courter and me for The Sin Bin/Wichita Thunder pregame show, beginning at 6:20 on the Mixlr app, and search Wichita Thunder.