BLOOMINGTON — Squandering a two-goal lead through two periods in their last game had the Bloomington Thunder stressing a complete effort this week.
“We really just need to stick to the systems and learn how to play a full 60-minute game,” said forward Tarek Baker, recalling Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Fargo. “We played a great 40 minutes but we sat back in the third period and we can’t do that if we want to win games in this league.”
After absorbing a weekend sweep by the Force, Bloomington (3-5-0) returns to action Friday when it hosts defending Clark Cup champion Sioux Falls in a 7 p.m. faceoff at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Following the game, the Thunder will travel to Wisconsin for Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. tilt with Madison.
“We can’t let up after the first two periods no matter how well we play,” said defenseman Noah Delmas. “We can’t sit back in the third period; I think we need to continue playing the way that got us the lead.”
After a flat showing in Friday’s 5-1 loss, the Thunder responded with a 9-3 shooting advantage in Saturday’s scoreless first period. Goals by Sean Harrison and Logan Lambdin gave Bloomington a lead at the second intermission before Fargo pounced on Thunder lapses.
“We’re still trying to learn (how) to close out games. The three mistakes we made cost us,” said Bloomington coach Dennis Williams. “I don’t think it was anything (Fargo) really did, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It wasn’t something along the lines of them being in our zone for a minute and a half, beating us up and really taking it to us.
“It was a turnover on the first goal on our power play which gave them a shorthanded goal. The second was a power play goal by them, a nice tip. The third one was a poor decision that turned into a chance against and they capitalized. I think they only had seven shots in the third and they scored on three of them.”
Both Sioux Falls (4-3-0) and Madison (4-2-0) enter the weekend riding three-game winning streaks. Special teams could be key as the Stampede own the league’s best penalty kill (93.1 percent) and have been penalized the least (11.9 minutes per game), while the Capitols are tied for the most successful power play (30.4 percent).
“I think our special teams have been pretty good all year except for last weekend, we struggled a little,” said Baker. “I think as long as we get back to working hard and outworking our opponents on the special teams end of it, I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Sioux Falls goalie Ales Stezka (2-3, 3.03 GAA) was picked by the Minnesota Wild in the fourth round of the NHL draft. Parker Tuomie (6 goals, 3 assists) is team’s top scorer, followed by Collin Peters (3 goals, 4 assists). Williams coached an injured Tuomie in a top prospects game two years ago.
“I didn’t realize until after the first period that he had a cast on his arm and he was still the best player on the ice,” said Williams. “I saw him and the locker room and I asked, ‘you’ve got a broken wrist?’ He said, ‘yeah, I’ve got a playing cast’ and I thought, how good is he going to be with two good hands?”
The Capitols have had balanced scoring led by Ryan Lohin (3 goals, 6 assists), Tyson McLellan (4 goals, 3 assists) and Sam McCormick (3 goals, 4 assists). Goalie Ryan Edquist, who the Thunder torched for eight goals in the preseason, owns a 1.35 GAA with a .960 save percentage.
Baker, a Madison native, anticipates having a good game Saturday in the familiar setting of Alliant Energy Center.
“I only live 10 minutes from the rink, so I should have a lot of family and friends there. It’s pretty nice to go back and play against old buddies who are there now,” he said. “I’ve been playing there my whole life and my hockey career’s been pretty good.”
Follow Joe Deacon on Twitter: @pg_deacon
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