With the Thunder’s 4-3 New Year’s Eve win over the Mavericks, Wichita is now 6-1-0-0 in their season-series, and they have now won their last 5 games against the Mavs. The Thunder are currently ranked 7th in the Western Conference with 35 points, and they stand at 3rd in the Central Division, two points behind Quad City and four points ahead of Tulsa, with at least 1 game-in-hand against the two teams. The Thunder’s current consecutive streak is at 6-0-0-1, and their last 10 games are at 6-3-0-1.
What does this mean? It means the Wichita Thunder have improved, and are continuing to improve or at least remain contenders in the top half of the Central Division.
|2||Quad City Mallards||31||16||10||3||2||37||0.597|
|6||Rapid City Rush||30||12||16||0||2||26||0.433|
The Thunders’ Powerplay has fluctuated up and down periodically, and currently the team is ranked 14th in the league at 17.4%. Overall in the ECHL the Florida Everblades have 25.7% success rate, while for the Central Division, Allen Americans are ranked 5th with 20.0% success rate. The only other Central Division team above Wichita is Rapid City with 17.6%.
The Thunder’s Penalty Kill is very good and stands near the top of the league ranked 4th overall with an 87.6% success rate. The only other Central Division team ranked higher is the Allen Americans at 88.1% who are currently ranked 3rd. The Toledo Walleye are ranked 1st with 88.8% and South Carolina Stingrays are ranked 2nd with 88.2%.
The Thunder have solved many of their defensive issues that they have struggled with for the first part of the season. They are now able to shut down higher powered offensive teams, but the Thunder are struggling with their own offense which is still a huge issue for this team.
Currently Wichita has a bare-bones roster with 6 defensemen and 12 forwards (with 2 injured forwards, Bartliff and Caveney.) Kurtis Bartliff is greatly missed since he was just beginning to make an impact on the team when he was injured. Joe Caveney has yet to play one game with the Thunder since he has been out with an injury from preseason. With Captain Theo Peckham’s departure, the Thunder need to add an additional defenseman soon, in case of injuries. This spare defenseman doesn’t have to be a top defenseman to replace Peckham, just a good overall D. The games since Peckham’s departure have shown that the remaining defensive core have done very well.
When compared to Allen, the Thunder’s 13 forwards over the season have scored 71 goals while Allen’s 11 forwards have scored 99 goals. The two teams top scorers have a rather large gap between the two, with Allen’s Jack Combs record at 20-30-50 while the Thunder’s top scorer Danick Gathier’s record is 14-15-20. And while Wichita’s record against Allen is excellent at 3-2-0-0 considering the different level of offensive rosters, the Thunder still need that high-powered sniper I mentioned some time again.
| Head to Head Record 2014-15 Regular Season
|Wichita 3-2-0-0||Allen 2-1-1-1|
The Thunder finally won their first shootout against the Allen Americans on Dec. 27th, giving them a 1-4 record in shootouts. This is very positive news for the team and breaks a horrible 0-4 record against Tulsa (3) and Rapid City (1).
Post-December games are where the playoffs are determined and Wichita has to continue their hard-nosed push for improvement — they are fully capable if they can fire up their offense. There’s far more good than bad, and not much ugly at all at this point which has changed greatly from when I wrote about the team in early November. Their total shots on goal have decreased slightly in the past few games, but they are still finding ways to win which is exactly what they will need for the remainder of the regular season.
| Roster Update: Goaltender Tyler Bunz has been returned to the team from the AHL’s OKC Barons, which is good news for Tim Boron, who has been playing great, but will need a rest to recuperate from his 7-game playing schedule.
| Dec. 31, 2014 – Wichita vs. Missouri at Independence, MO:
Quick note on the Thunder’s New Year’s Eve game in Missouri — the team played a better game than the previous night in Wichita, coming out strong and holding on through the end. However, they once again relaxed with a 2-goal lead in the 3rd and put themselves into the position of playing “penalty kill” for most of the period. This mindset will hurt them if they continue to allow themselves to relax with a lead. Every one of these Central Division teams are fighting to make their first season of the ECHL playoffs and this will continue to be a struggle to the end.
The Thunder are now 6-1-0-0 in their Mavericks season Independence Cup series.
The Missouri Independence Events Center is a great little arena and was filled with a sold out crowd of 5850 on New Year’s Eve. I highly recommend a visit — free parking and an excellent atmosphere. If you make the trek, stop to try some excellent Kansas City BBQ on your way — my stop was Oklahoma Joe’s (now Kansas City Joe’s) at their original gas station location. Add these to your hockey bucket list! You won’t regret it.
The Wichita Thunder’s first game of 2015 will take place at home as they host the Quad City Mallards on Saturday, Jan. 3, at 7:05 p.m.