In the 2005-06 season, I took a road trip through half of the Central Hockey League and the entire 14 team (at the time) United Hockey League. One of my early stops was in Wichita, Kansas, to see the Thunder take on the Oklahoma City Blazers. The third period was the longest period of hockey I had ever witnessed. According to the gamesheet, the first minute featured 3 1/2 fights (third man in), or as the highly classy CHL likes to call it, Fisticuffs. The Unsportsmanlike penalty to the goalie was the result of him squirting the player who charged him in the first place as that player was skating by the goal crease while being ejected.
This Sunday’s match between the Thunder and the Mississippi RiverKings was a tamer affair. In the five and a half years since my last tour of Wichita, the city built a new arena downtown, and they brought the fancy along with the schmancy.
Nice digs, eh? Take a look inside:
This game was a tale of two different battles. Not to give it away, but the first was the RiverKings goalie battle with the puck. No matter how Zen Master he may look here, he wasn’t that way after the game started:
The other battle was between the rest of the RiverKings and Thunder goalie Marty Magers.
In fact, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Tonight, Magers put on a show. At times, he was helped by his teammates, but every goalie has those moments. Magers made the medium shots look easy, and the hard ones look like he was Tim Thomas in his finest form. It was pure entertainment, and I loved every minute of it.
Can I just say that Wichita has a better center ice scoreboard than the New York Islanders?
It’s sad. The Islanders should haul the city council down to Wichita and make them feel shame.
Hey, what the hell is with the guys in body suits? Why can you not go anywhere without seeing one of them? Get off my lawn! Or at least, get some waffles:
After an eternity of special sponsored puck drops, end of season awards (this was the last game of the regular season), and everything else to delay the start of the game, the puck finally dropped.
No, really, this is action.
Grrrr!!!! Goalie Mad!!!!
Overall, this guy did a pretty good job, which can be saying something for a minor league ref. He missed a few things, but when you are dealing with a one ref system, that’s going to happen. Mostly, he got it right.
OK, back to the hockey.
With 3:40 left in the game, the Thunder were called for a double minor high sticking. You could argue a high stick call, but because it was a double minor, I will assume blood, and it was the right call. The crowd was savvy enough to boo the initial call, but when it was announced as four minutes, reluctantly accepted reality. Unfortunately, the only goal for the RiverKings came on the first half of that double minor, with 2:53 left in the game. The shutout bid for Magers was ruined, and he was visibly upset by it, but the crowd gave him a standing ovation after the RiverKings goal, which he had certainly earned. He was the unquestioned first star of the game.
Magers made 44 saves in the 8-1 victory, while Alexander Pechurskiy at the other end only made 22, and the Thunder had two shothanded goals.
But wait, there’s more.
The last time I was in Wichita, I won the intermission Chuck-A-Puck. If you don’t know what Chuck-A-Puck is, you need to go to a minor league game. Essentially, you throw foam pucks on the ice at the second intermission, and try to get it in a bucket or helmet, or near a target, and you win a price. In 2005, I got the puck in a bucket at center ice (pro tip: one bounce). Two other people did as well that night, and we wound up splitting the cash prize. I have never repeated the feat since.
I don’t know what it is about Wichita, but I won again, this time as one of several winners as there were multiple targets laid on the ice. And what did I win? What prize would be perfect for someone from Colorado, a traveling man, one who moves around a lot for work, and hasn’t been to Wichita in 5 1/2 years?
Two tickets to a Thunder game next season.
So, who’s up for a game?