STOCKTON, Calif. – In brilliant fashion, the Stockton Thunder pulled out a come-from-behind victory to force a game seven in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Las Vegas Wranglers in a 5-3 win in game six.
In their previous five games, the home team has won each game, making game six a must win for the Thunder. But until the last fifteen minutes of the period, the fans were beginning the fear the end of the season was near. Some of the 3,621 fans in attendance even began to leave when the Wranglers scored their third unanswered power play goal at 4:25 into the third period.
But goals by five different Stockton players led to their come back and created an intense, exciting atmosphere that virtually raised the roof on the Stockton Arena.
The first period goals came off the sticks of Carlo Finucci, with assists to Charlie Cook and Marc Cantin on a power play at 4:19. Finucci’s shot went top shelf near the corner of the net, leaving Olivier Roy stunned. The Thunder battled hard, but despite throwing multiple shots on the Joe Fallon net, did not score. The Wranglers second goal came at 18:28, during a Shawn Weller roughing penalty, when Cantin scored on a feed from Sean Wiles.
The second period remained scoreless as the two teams traded shots and opportunities. Stockton outshot the Wranglers 16-5 during the period, while Fallon was stellar in the net.
The third period, with only three seconds remaining on an Eric Hunter boarding penalty, Wiles beat Roy top shelf again giving Las Vegas their third goal of the night at 4:25. That would be the end of the Wranglers scoring.
The Thunder rally began thirty seconds later. Andrew Clark beat Fallon in the net, for the first Stockton goal of the night. The next Stockton power play goal at 12:23 got the fans on their feet and they only became louder as the period continued. A feed from Ryan Constant to Harrison Reed, put the Thunder within a single goal. Mike Little received an assist on the play as well.
The fans played a huge role in this game according to Thomas. “The fans get us going. When you get that energy in the building, the guys just feed off of it. It ended up being one of those incredible games that you’ll never forget.”
The Thunder continued their assault on Fallon, when at 13:48, Garet Hunt collected the tying goal with assists to Constant and Ryan Hayes.
“It was a great shot from Constant and I focused on getting it to the net and the bounce went in,” said Hunt.
Daniel Gibb scored the eventual winning goal, his first ever professional goal at 16:40, and fans went absolutely wild. Hayes and Clark each had assists on the play.
“We just kept putting pucks to the net and getting guys on the net. It paid off for us. I just faked shot and put it on the net. I didn’t even realize I scored until the guys started celebrating,” said Gibb.
Weller took advantage of a pass interception and scored an empty net goal at 19:39 to secure the 5-3 win.
“It’s a good win. It feels great. How we poured it on the third. We battled all the game, and played our hearts out,” Said Hunt following the game.
The Thunder outshot the Wranglers 50-21.
“I’m real proud of these guys. They didn’t quit. They were down 3-0 in the third period, with the season on the line. We made some mistakes, but we got the job done,” said Matt Thomas following the game.
“There were 18 guys thinking the right way and doing the right things. That was a great game to be a part of,” Thomas continued, “I thought we played our best, and we almost didn’t get rewarded for it.”
“We get another opportunity to win. I’m hoping we can turn those final minutes from tonight into a full 60 minutes on Sunday,” added Thomas.
The fans were on their feet, many with horse voices as they left the building. Their presence was felt by every member of the Thunder team.
“It felt like there were a hundred-thousand people in there tonight. The fans wanted goals. The fans were behind us. It felt like the whole city was there,” Hunt continued, “We feed off of it for sure.”
Game seven will be on Sunday afternoon at the Stockton Arena and is destined to be an exciting match.
The winner of game seven will go on to face the winner of the Alaska and San Francisco series, in which the Aces has the lead with 3-1 games.