Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Arizona’s Kevin Baker moves the puck against Wichita’s Matt Robinson on Friday night at Tim’s Toyota Center.
The Daily Courier
Heading into a two-game series against the Wichita (Kan.) Thunder on Friday with five contests left in the 2012-13 season, the Arizona Sundogs appeared to be no worse than a lock for the Central Hockey League's eighth and final playoff spot.
However, after narrowly beating Wichita in just the second meeting of the campaign between the two clubs, the Sundogs remain in contention to move up slightly in the postseason seedings.
Sundogs forward and leading scorer Chad Nehring snapped a 3-3 tie by knocking in a goal with 1 minute and 3 seconds left in regulation to hand Arizona a big, come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Tim's Toyota Center.
The second-place Thunder (35-18-8 overall record, 78 points), which has already wrapped up a playoff berth, still trails the league-leading Allen (Texas) Americans (36-15-9, 81 points) by only three points.
Third-place Fort Worth (35-19-7, 77 points), which has also clinched a playoff spot, defeated Allen 5-2 on Friday and is nipping at Wichita's heels.
In the first of five straight home contests to end the campaign, the Sundogs improved their overall record to 29-27-6.
Arizona is now tied with the Quad City (Ill.) Mallards and the expansion Denver Cutthroats, who all have 64 points and are jockeying for the last three seeds into the postseason.
Versus Wichita, the Sundogs led 3-2 late in regulation, but the Thunder's Matt Summers tallied the equalizer with little more than 3 minutes left in the third.
About 2 minutes later, Nehring put Arizona in front for good, lighting the lamp on assists from Zack Firlotte and Karl Linden to ignite an announced crowd of 3,007.
Arizona rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead late in the second period thanks to back-to-back goals from forward Kevin Baker, the reining CHL Player of the Week, and Sebastien Geoffrion.
Baker scored on an assist from Matt McCready 16 minutes and 22 seconds into the period and Geoffrion followed a mere 12 seconds later, at 16:34, on helpers from Cody Purves and Mario Larocque.
The Thunder led 2-1 at the end of the first.
Wichita's Kevin Young scored a power-play goal on an assist from Summers nearly 11 minutes into the frame. The Thunder's Ian Lowe then lit the lamp some five minutes later on helpers from Neil Trimm and Matt Robinson.
But with only 10 seconds to go before the first intermission, Nehring scored on assists from Derek LeBlanc and Brian Bicek to halve the Thunder's edge and set up the ensuing drama.
The Sundogs will wrap up their two-game series against Wichita at 7:05 tonight. Arizona ends the regular campaign with a three-game set versus Fort Worth next week at Tim's.