STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder come off of Military Appreciation weekend, with six of six points in the bag. A much needed win Friday night in overtime provided the boost to put a stop to a four game skid in a comeback victory against the Ontario Reign, followed Saturday and Sunday by wins against the San Francisco Bulls in a home and away series.
On Friday, the Thunder provided only 20 shots on goal for the entire game. The opening period was scoreless, as the two teams fought hard in both ends, however, much of the game was spent in the Thunders defensive zone. The Reign outshot the Thunder 15-6 during this period.
In the second period, Ontario’s Brodie Sheahan opened the scoring at 11:07 with a shot from the point that scored on Olivier Roy in the net. The Reign held Stockton to only three shots on goal, while Roy turned away ten.
The third period saw the bulk of the action for the Thunder. Stockton rallied with ten shots on goal, allowing Ontario only one during the period. Stockton’s newest arrival, Brandon Davidson scored at the 5:23 mark, knotting the game at one-apiece and forcing the overtime. This game marked Davidson’s third game since recovering from cancer, and his ECHL debut with the Thunder since being assigned by the Oilers.
In overtime, the emotions were running high, Derek Couture and Tony DeHart dropped the gloves at the 2:52 mark, following an interference with goalkeeper by C.J. Stretch, leaving the Thunder with the man advantage. Davidson found the net at the 3:03 mark with a one-timer for the power play goal and the win for Stockton.
Ontario’s Dustin Carlson took the loss with 18 saves for the game, while Roy earned the win with 29 saves. Stockton was one-for-five on the powerplay, while Ontario was zero-for-four.
The following night, Stockton took on the San Francisco Bulls at home. In a continuation of Military Appreciation night, the players held a large flag on the ice while the Army Brass played the National Anthem. Local members of the military who lost their lives during active service in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored in a special video tribute during the breaks. Attending active duty and retired military members were also honored.
Stockton players wore specially designed sweaters with camouflage details for both Friday and Saturday’s games. The jerseys were auctioned following the games. The proceeds from the games events went to benefit the Welcome Home Heroes Foundation, an organization designed to support the United States veterans and their local families for housing and financial needs.
The Thunder provided an action packed game in comparison to the previous night for the 7,525 fans in attendance. Roy earned his fifth shutout in his career, by stopping all 34 shots he faced in the 4-0 win over the Bulls.
In the opening period, Stockton’s Gabriel Levesque scored at 5:34, followed at 6:16 by Eric Hunter, giving the Thunder a two goal lead. Early in the second period, Matt Bergland shot a pass from in front of the net that zipped past Taylor Nelson at the 1:13 mark. Then as the Thunder capitalized on a power play at 2:48, Leveque poked the puck in the net for his second goal of the game. Nelson was replaced in favor of Thomas Heemskerk for the duration of the game, but San Francisco’s offense was stymied by Roy in the net.
Tempers flared in the third period as all but 12 minutes, of the total 144 penalty minutes were dealt in a full out brawl, excepting the goaltenders was waged at 8:29 into the period.
As a result of a cross-check by Bulls’ Cody Carlson, five players from each team were accessed penalties for fighting and game misconducts, to include Carlson, Hans Benson, Jordan Clendenning and Dylan King for the Bulls and Maxime Boisclair, DeHart, Levesque, and Matt Reber. Teigan Zahn and Kris Belan received five each for fighting. The Thunder held on for the win and shutout, sending the fans home happy.
In a Sunday early afternoon matinee game against the Bulls, the Thunder finally earned the elusive win at the Cow Palace with a 3—1 victory.
At the 1:42 mark, Belan and Ryan Green dropped the gloves early, prompting Referee Maro-Andre Lavoie to send warnings to each bench. The game was scoreless until 8:22 into the second period, when Hunter scored the first Stockton goal. Davidson scored his third of the weekend on a power play at the 18:10 mark against Heemskerk in the net.
The Bulls scored their first and only goal of the game at 9:11 into the third period against Tyler Bunz in the net, but could not find the net again. Stockton’s Ryan Constant scored an empty net goal at 19:27 to seal the Thunder’s third win for the weekend.
Bunz earned his first win since January 5, giving Stockton their first three game win streak since November. Bunz faced 27 shots, while Heemskerk took the loss with 26 saves.
The Thunder visits Ontario on Wednesday night, while the Bulls head to Idaho for a weekend series. The Thunder is now second in the Pacific Division with 27-20-5-4 and 63 points, trailing the leading Reign by 12 points. The Reign has clinched a spot in the playoffs already, as have Alaska (78 points) and Idaho (71 points) too.
Photos by Jack.Lima@prohockeynews.com