ALLEN, Texas – The Wichita Thunder were 2:19 away from winning their third Central Hockey League championship, but a late charge from the Allen Americans tied the game to force overtime and the Americans managed to snatch the title in the extra frame in front of 6,125 hometown fans at the Allen Event Center on Saturday night.
R.G. Flath did everything within his power to put Wichita in position to win, scoring two goals within the first 34-minutes of play. However, a late third period goal from Allen’s Trevor Hendrikx with just 2:19 remaining would give the Americans new life and Todd Robinson nailed the game-winner 2:47 into overtime to give Allen its first title.
Flath got the Thunder on the board first, taking a pass from goalie Torrie Jung near the Thunder blue line and skating into the Americans’ zone where he unleashed a shot from the top of the right circle that beat goaltender Aaron Dell to make it 1-0 with 13:35 left in the opening period.
Flath added a shorthanded marker at the 13:38 mark of the middle frame, blasting a shot from just inside the blue line and into the net to give the Thunder a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
Allen finally got on the board 7:13 into the third when Jarret Lukin beat Jung up close during a fray in front of the net, cutting Wichita’s lead in half. The Thunder saw a chance to increase their lead back to two when Les Reaney got away from a defender in the slot and put a shot on net, but Dell came up big, getting his glove along the post to deny the Thunder.
It would be another 10 agonizing minutes for the Allen fans before Hendrikx skipped a puck along the ice and past Jung to make it 2-2.
Following a brief intermission, Allen took advantage of the momentum change and it took only 2:47 before they were able to seal the deal. Mike Montgomery sent a pass up the right wall where Robinson took control and sent a shot from the top of the right circle past Jung’s blocker and into the net to claim the win and clinch the title.
“We were three minutes away from getting where we wanted to go and it didn’t happen,” Thunder Head Coach Kevin McClelland told the Wichita Eagle. “Once you get into overtime, anything can happen.”
The Thunder will now take the next five months off before they get geared back up for the 2013-14 CHL season. While they could look back on being less than three minutes from their first championship since 1995, they instead can look back at their recent accomplishments and build on them for next season.
Since McClelland was hired in April 2010, The Thunder have posted a record of 139-78-17 (including playoffs). This in itself is a vast improvement over their 9-50-5 record in the 2009-10 season. They have progressively won more playoff games each season (2, 9, 11), and they have been runners-up in the Ray Miron President’s Cup Finals two years in a row.
While it is expected that the players, coaches and fans will be thinking about being 2:19 away from the title for a while, they will undoubtedly turn their focus to how much they have improved in such a short time. And when the new season begins in October, the Wichita Thunder will be a force to be reckoned with.
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