ANAHEIM — Early in the Roller Hockey International season, Bullfrog defenseman Sean Whyte faced a personal dilemma that, by his account, sent him into a state of depression.
He had two choices as training camp broke: Remain with the Bullfrogs or return home to Phoenix to reconcile with his wife, Stephanie.
He chose the latter, but when the struggling Bullfrogs called 10 days ago looking for his services again, Stephanie agreed she could handle the separation for the final month of the season.
Well, Sunday night that painful temporary decision to come back to Southern California paid off when Whyte notched the winning goal in a sudden-death shootout to lift the Bullfrogs over the Blades, 7-6, in front of an announced crowd of 11,425 at the Pond.
The win kept Anaheim (11-9) in third place in the Western Conference, four points behind the front-running Blades (11-5-4) and two points back of San Jose (11-6-2), which took a 4-3 shootout win over basement-dwelling Sacramento (6-11-2).
The Blades host the Bullfrogs on Thursday at the Forum.
"This was as big a win as you can get," Bullfrog Coach Brad McCaughey said. "We want to climb back into the standings and this was the kind of team you have to beat to do that."
With only four games left in the season, and the standings tightening, the Bullfrogs can't afford many losses.
Sunday's victory was the second consecutive shootout win for goaltender Rob Laurie, who stopped 45 shots in a 5-4 victory at St. Louis 24 hours earlier. Laurie stopped 39 shots in regulation Sunday and gave up a goal during the eight-skater shootout. That was on a slap shot by Scott Drevitch on the Blades' second attempt.
Blade goaltender Jeff Ferguson stopped the first three Bullfrogs he faced in the shootout and could have skated away with the victory had B.J. MacPherson not bounced his slap shot off the left post and behind Ferguson to tie the score, 1-1.
Just getting to the shootout was difficult for the Bullfrogs, who were playing their fourth game in the last five days. They trailed, 3-2, at the half and 5-2 midway through the third quarter.
But the Bullfrogs responded with goals from Todd Wetzel, Canadian national team defender Bob Woods, making his debut with the team, Victor Gervais and Jim Ficenec in a 1 1/2-minute span later in the quarter and led, 6-5, with 3:54 left.
Doug Ast's 50-foot slap shot beat Laurie 13 seconds later, and that's the way it ended in regulation.
Blade captain Steve Wilson said his team intended to get physical with the Bullfrogs, but that they got carried away with making contact too much during that Anaheim scoring spree.