Cody Reichard makes a save in the net for Stockton
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder stopped the San Francisco Bulls on Monday night at the home of the San Jose Sharks with a final score of 6-4. In what turned out to be much needed hockey fix for many NHL fans in the area, due to the lockout, the two teams put on a show, including four fisticuffs, and hard hitting action on both ends. This marked the first time in over ten years for ECHL teams to face off on NHL ice, while the two teams played at the Shark tank – HP Pavilion, in San Jose. The Bulls (11-16-1-2, with 25 points) and Thunder (15-7-3-2 with 35 points) faced each other for the fourth time this season, and had a 3-0 edge going into this game.
Matt Bergland and Joe Sova fight for the puck.
The Thunder came out strong in the opening stanza, as both teams played their physical style. Stockton’s Teigan Zahn dropped gloves early with Dylan King, which seemed to be a draw, but the 12,881 fans in attendance enjoyed the show. The Bulls’ Mikael Tam opened the scoring on a slap shot from just above the circle past Cody Reichard in the net at 9:21. Stockton’s Toni Rajala answered with the equalizer at 10:53 with a slap shot of his own that found the back of the net manned by Thomas Heemskerk. Jordan Clendenning was serving a slashing penalty, when Rajala netted his second shot of the night at 15:25, to give the Thunder the go-ahead goal.
Garet Hunt%27s stroke for goal.
In the second period, a wrist shot from the top of the circle from Kris Belan tied the score at the 1:36 mark. Stockton turned up the heat for the duration of the second, with goals from Mike Little, Garet Hunt and Rajala’s third of the night. The first Thunder goal of the period came at 4:47, assisted by Phil Mangan, as he fed a shot to a waiting Little at the left circle for the goal. With only 4:48 remaining in the period, Heemskerk tried to play the puck from behind the net and before he could get back into position, Justin Maylan fed a centering pass for Hunt to poke into the net. About 45 seconds later Rajala scored his hat-trick goal, leading the Bulls to swap Heemskerk in favor of Taylor Nelson in the net to attempt to change the scoring momentum. Stockton led 5-2 going into the second intermission.
Face off during action
In the third period, the Thunder seemed to let their foot off the gas. Thunder head coach Matt Thomas speculated they had noticed the score and thought they could cruise to the win from that point. “I cautioned between the second and third that we had better not think [we] won the game in 40 minutes. I wanted to play a complete 60 and [have them be] proud of their execution and work ethic.” In the third period, San Francisco mounted their comeback, as the Thunder’s Zahn went to serve on an interference minor. Sacha Guimond scored a wrist shot past Reichard with an assist by Rob Kweit at 2:56. Reichard made a group of fabulous saves, as he was faced with a barrage of shots though the middle part of the period, as the Thunder worked to kill yet another penalty, including a two-on-one break-away by Kwiet.
Thomas Heemskerk makes a save for the Bulls
With only 7:14 remaining on the clock, and the Thunder leading by two, Alex Tuckerman closed the gap as the Bulls drew Reichard to one side and redirected the puck past him. However, it would not be enough, as Cameron Abney extended the Thunder’s lead again with the final goal of the night with only 2:58 remaining. Both teams were one for four on the power play for the night, and the Thunder lead with 33-29 shots on goal. Rajala scored his 16th goal of the season (in only 19 games), and leads the Thunder in goals and points (28). Reichard improved his record to 7-1-1-1, with 2.56 goals against average and .914 save percentage. Stockton is in fourth in the Western Conference with 35 points, while the Bulls are in sixth. The Thunder heads to Alaska for a three game series for the coming weekend, followed by two additional road games in Bakersfield, California before they return home on December 29. The Bulls continue their home stand with a game against the Ontario Reign on Friday. Contact the writer at Shellie.Lima@prohockeynews.com
Contact the photographer at Jack.Lima@prohockeynews.com