STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder (29-22-9, 67 points) scored a season high four power play goals and goaltender Tyler Bunz made 27 saves, as the Thunder clinched a spot in the 2013 Kelly Cup playoffs with a 4-1 win over the Ontario Reign (38-14-5, 81 points) in front of 5,796 fans at Stockton Arena on Sunday.
“The last couple of games, we kept missing that extra pass where we had an opportunity on the weak side of the ice.” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said afterwards, “Tonight, we found it. We found it four times.”
Of the four goals on the night, three were scored by defenseman, as Brandon Davidson, Ryan Constant, and Tony DeHart each found the back of the net for the Thunder. Forward Matt Reber also had a goal, while forward Maxime Boisclair totaled three assists.
The win also secured the earliest date of a playoff berth clinch in Thunder history, beating the previous mark set on Mar. 11, 2011.
Ontario’s Sergey Kostenko made 18 stops on the night for his first loss with the Reign.
The Thunder opened the scoring late in the first period. On a power play, forward Matt Reber took a pass from forward Maxime Boisclair just to the left of the crease. Reber lined a pass to the right circle, where defenseman Brandon Davidson sniped a shot that zinged by Kostenko and into the net, giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead 17:27 into the opening frame.
Halfway through the second period, the Thunder took advantage of another power play. Defenseman Ryan Constant took the pass from forward Shawn Weller at the left circle and fired a shot over Kostenko’s right shoulder, doubling the Thunder lead at 2-0 10:44 into the second period.
Starting the third period on a power play, the Thunder found the back of the net again after Reber sent Boisclair’s pass from the trapezoid and slammed it by Kostenko’s glove. Reber’s shot from just above the crease increased the Thunder advantage to 3-0 just 29 seconds into the final frame.
Bunz’s shutout was broken up 12:48 into the final frame. Just after a four-on-four playing scenario, Kyle Kraemer took Matthew Clune’s pass and beat Bunz stick side to cut the lead to 3-1.
Defenseman Tony DeHart provided the exclamation point on another power play by firing a shot from the left circle past Kostenko’s glove to make the final count 4-1 with 40 seconds left to play.
Following a five day layoff, the Thunder will next head back to Ontario for the third consecutive game against the Reign on Saturday, March 2.
With Stockton Thunder Press Release
All photos by Jack Lima, Jack.Lima@prohockeynews.com