STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder opened the season tonight by raising the 2012-13 Western Conference Championship banner and topped off the night with a 5-0 shutout against the Colorado Eagles before 6,786 fans at the Stockton Arena.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start for the season. Raising the banner and then the guys competing the way they did tonight,” said Coach Rich Kromm.
The Thunder’s captain Garet Hunt scored only 32 seconds into the game, with a shot that appeared to roll up and over Trevor Cann in the Eagles net. Assists were credited to Ryan Constant and Ryan Hayes. All three players were returning players from last year’s championship team.
“We had some sustained pressure from that first period and it just kept building.” Said Kromm
The Eagles had several scoring chances throughout the game but the heavy defense both by the skaters and especially Brian Foster in the Thunder net made the difference.
Foster talked about the banner ceremony and how it seemed to inspire the team. “It always helps to score early. With everything that went on before the game started, it definitely helps with momentum.”
At the end of the first period, the Thunder was leading by three. Kirill Kabanov scored an unassisted goal at 12:20.
“We sent a message to the other teams,” said Kabanov. “The guys stood up good for each other today. We were a great team.”
The third goal was scored by Brayden Irwin with assists from Corey Trivino and Mike Dalhuisen.
Alex Hudson and Mathieu Gagnon squared off midway through the first period as well, lifting the fans to their feet.
Less than three minutes into the second period, Mike Keenan scored a power play goal, assisted by Matt Bergland and Irwin. The goal forced the Eagles to swap goalies, sending Adam Brown to the net. Cann faced 16 shots in just over 22 minutes. Shortly afterwards, Hudson and Jesse Mychan for the Eagles and Gagnon and Dalhuisen were sent to the box for fighting.
Dalhuisen scored the final goal for the night at the 16:22 mark on a power play. The goal was assisted by Kabanov and Mike Keenan.
By the end of the game, Foster had 33 saves for the shutout and win, while Brown finished the game in the net for the Eagles loss with sixteen saves in 17 shots.
Kromm talked after the game about the physical aggression during the game, that included four fighting penalties. “Dalhuisen is a very physical player and it showed tonight. Gagnon, that’s his game. He’s got to play that way and I think he showed that. He’s going to bring that every night.”
The Thunder will rest tomorrow and then return to the ice for game two of the season on Wednesday night against the Ontario Reign.
Colorado will travel to Idaho to face the Steelheads next Friday.