RECAP: 300′s Company
Thunder gives head coach Matt Thomas career win #300 in shootout win, thriller
STOCKTON, Calif. –
STOCKTON, Calif. –Captain Jason Morgan scored a goal in the fifth round of a shootout and Thomas Heemskerk made 35 saves to help the Stockton Thunder (29-24-5, 63 points) complete a come-from-behind rally and edge the Alaska Aces in a 4-3 shootout victory before 5,778 at Stockton Arena on Sunday.
The win was Thunder head coach Matt Thomas’ 300th of his ECHL career, becoming the eighth coach in league history to accomplish the feat. Stockton also reduced its magic number to six for a clinch of a playoff berth and took four points out of a possible six against Alaska – who entered the weekend with the league’s best record.
“Like any milestone, you’re humbled,” said Thomas. “There are some pretty accomplished coaches in that group and guys that I have a lot of respect for and look up to. I literally look up to them. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Mike Little, Jesse Fratkin and Max Campbell scored in regulation for the Thunder, who improved to 11-3-1 in the last 15 home games.
Blair Yaworski’s deflection at the goal mouth put Alaska ahead, 1-0 at the 6:52 mark of the first period and the Thunder responded with back to back goals to take a 2-1 lead, beginning with Little’s seventh goal of the season.
After the Thunder kept a clearing attempt by Wes Goldie in the offensive zone, Garet Hunt and Morgan exchanged and helped set up a feed to Little at the blueline, who rocketed a wrist shot past Shane Owen’s glove.
Fratkin’s power play goal put the Thunder ahead 2-1 with 2:08 left in the period, converting a backdoor feed by Jordan Fulton at the right post.
Alaska retaliated to knot the score, 2-2 on Brian Swanson’s rebound goal at the right post with 1:09 left in the period.
Nick Mazzolini restored the Alaska lead at 3-2 with 6:02 elapsed in the second period, converting on a rebound at the left post after Thomas Heemskerk stopped Chad Anderson’s deflection.
The Thunder finally responded with 2:58 left in the period, when Owen was unable to handle a backhander by Gabriel Levesque. Campbell followed up and stashed a backhander at the goal mouth for his seventh goal of the season to tie the game at 3-3.
Alaska put Heemskerk through his heaviest workload of the game in the third period with 15 shots, but Heemskerk stopped them all including two extra bids in overtime.
Campbell’s goal in the third round lifted the Thunder to a 1-0 lead in the shootout stages. Owen turned away D’Alvise’s forehand deke in the top of the fourth round and Heemskerk forced a Nick Mazzolini bid off the post on the ensuing shot.
Morgan then ended the game when he skated down the middle and ripped a wrist shot past Owen, sending the Thunder flying off the bench in celebration. Thomas was saluted at center ice by Thunder fans and a videoboard presentation immediately after.
NOTES: Scratched for the game were Tony DeHart (injured reserve), Sebastian Owuya (injured reserve), Ian O’Connor (healthy), Chris Doyle (healthy) and Cameron Abney (injured reserve) … Owen made 21 saves in his Alaska debut … the Thunder finished the head to head series at 5-5-0 against Alaska … Levesque’s assist on Campbell’s goal was his second in two games since returning from injury … Goldie, who entered the game two goals shy of tying Rod Taylor for the ECHL all time lead, was held scoreless for the second consecutive game on two shots.
The Thunder returns to play on Tuesday, launching a four game road trip at Colorado which begins at 6:05 p.m.The game will be carried on radio at 1280 AM KWSX and online for viewing (pay-per-view video charge) and listening (free of charge) at www.StocktonThunder.com, courtesy of AmericaOne.
A two-time recipient of the ECHL “Award of Excellence,” Thunder was voted “Best Local Sports Team” by readers of the San Joaquin Magazine, led the ECHL in attendance for four consecutive seasons and drew over 200,000 fans for the sixth consecutive season in 2010-11. Season Tickets for 2012-13 are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit http://www.stocktonthunder.com/.
1. STK – 9 Max Campbell
2. STK – 13 Jesse Fratkin
3. AK – 27 Brian Swanson