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3rd period penalties

Here’s a free hockey tip for you — when a team is constantly in the penalty box and battling on the penalty kill against a top offensive team, it’s damned hard to win games. Scoring more goals than the other team and playing good defensive hockey is key and that is impossible from the box. As you can see from this weekend’s scores, the Wichita Thunder had a tough time in Allen on Friday and Saturday:

  • Jan. 16 — Wichita Thunder 2 – 8 Allen Americans
  • Jan. 17 — Wichita Thunder 4 – 6 Allen Americans

You never know exactly what you will see when the Allen Americans face the Wichita Thunder, except that you will very likely see a chippy game. Up until this weekend the Thunder were 3-3-0-0 against the Americans, and the Americans were 3-1-1-1 against the Thunder. With the Thunder’s two losses this weekend, they are now 3-5-0-0 against the Allen Americans who notched their 8th straight win and moved up into an ECHL league-wide 1st place tie with the Fort Wayne Komets at 57 points.

Coming into the weekend the Thunder’s roster had been depleted by call-ups and injuries. Dan Milan and Kenton Miller both earned call-ups to AHL clubs and while this hit the Thunder hard roster-wise, that is exactly what all of these boys are working for in the end. The Thunder signed Mike MacIntyre, a defenseman from the SPHL, to fill in for injured Dalton Reum who seems to be out long-term. At the moment the Thunder have Joe Caveney and Kurtis Bartliff on 21-day IR and Dalton Reum has been out since his injury early in the Jan. 7th Quad City game. Earlier the team signed Travis Granbois, who most recently played defense but has a lot of experience as a forward as well, and that seems to be where he is slotted for the team at least for now, but don’t be surprised when you see him play both positions while he’s in Wichita.

Despite the recent additions to the team the Thunder played short-handed this weekend with only 5 defensemen against a very fast offensive team, even though Allen had recently lost their top scorer Jack Combs to a Swedish team. By Saturday night Thunder defensemen ended up double- and triple-shifting (Kirill Tulupov and Eric Meland at one point for at least 2 minutes), and forward Danick Gauthier also filled in on the blueline when necessary, when a number of Thunder defensemen sat cooling their heels in the penalty box on a series of Allen powerplays. Mike Wilson sat for 5 minutes (Fighting Major), plus 2-minutes for roughing at 1:05 into the 3rd period, Michael Trebish sat for 2 minutes (High-sticking minor) at 5:49 into the 3rd, and Eric Meland sat for 5 minutes (Fighting Major) at 14:24.

In addition to that defense group, the forwards also had their fair share of time in the box during the 3rd period — at 4:02 Jared Walker was sent off for 2-minutes for roughing, later at 11:32 Todd Hosmer was given 2-minutes for high sticking, and at the end of the game at 19:58 Travis Granbois was given a 5-minute Fighting Major.

On top of that Thunder’s Erick Lizon left the bench at 12:54 into the 3rd for an altercation with Allen’s Brett Lyon. Lizon was slapped with a double-minor for roughing and a 10-minute Game Misconduct for leaving the bench. Lyon received 2 for roughing and a 10-minute Misconduct for continuing an altercation. Leaving the bench is serious business folks, as seen in the following ECHL Rules, so expect to see Lizon suspended for a while:

70.1 Leaving the Bench – No player may leave the players’ or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation.

70.6 Game Misconduct Penalty – A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the player who was the first or second player to leave the players’ or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, from either or both teams.

Any penalized player leaving the penalty bench during a stoppage of play and during an altercation shall incur a minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty. The minor penalty plus the unexpired time remaining in his original penalty must be served by a replacement player placed on the penalty bench by the Coach of the offending

70.10 Fines and Suspensions – The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally, whether play is in progress or not, from either or both teams during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, shall be suspended automatically for the next five (5) regular League and/or Play-off games of his team.

The Thunder had 15 infractions amounting to 47 minutes, and ended up giving the Allen Americans, the 5th ranked powerplay team in the league, nine powerplay situations and they converted on three. On the flip side, Allen had 13 infractions amounting to 51 minutes, allowing Wichita six powerplay opportunities and the Thunder was able to capitalize only on one of those with a PP goal very late in the 3rd at 19:52 by Todd Hosmer, assisted by Travis Granbois and Jared Walker. Friday’s game was no better regarding penalties — Wichita had 13 infractions amounting to 34 minutes, giving Allen eight powerplay opportunities and they capitalized on two. Allen had only 10 infractions for 20 minutes, allowing Wichita six powerplay opportunities but they were unable to capitalize at all against the league’s top ranked Penalty Kill team.

Almost every game has a few penalties. Some penalties are not called at all, while others are possibly called a bit too freely, however when a team is behind and still battling for a win penalties are their number one enemy, and fighting is perhaps the worst culprit of all since it removes a player from the ice for at the very least 5 minutes. The team isn’t short-handed for that 5 minutes, however they have lost that player from their bench and roster for 5 minutes — that’s a lot of time in hockey. A lot of time that could be put to better use on the ice.

Today’s hockey is fast and skillful and even 4th lines score on winning teams, and teams can no longer afford to have a player who is only devoted to fighting taking up roster space.  If you have a “fighter” on a team today they had best be able to play a good skillful game of hockey otherwise they are extinct. But there are times in games when a penalty is the absolute worst thing a player do — and last night’s 3rd period was one of those times for the Wichita Thunder.  The Thunder was down by 2 goals at the start of the 3rd period and they could easily have at least tied that game for a point and the return of the team’s morale and self-esteem.

As it was the Thunder dropped both games to Allen even though they played some very good periods of hockey during those games. Yes, we could also talk about the Thunder’s goaltending this weekend as well, since both goalies had some issues, but penalties were the biggest culprit overall. If the Thunder was a horrible team they wouldn’t currently be in 2nd place in the Central Division and 5th in the Conference, but slips like this, even against the top ranked Allen Americans will ultimately hurt them if they can’t reign in their play and focus on playing well rather than giving their opponents multiple powerplay opportunities, one right after the other, even if they have top penalty kill units.

Even in the old rough and tumble Central Hockey League days a team couldn’t win from the penalty box.