RECAP: Pink Sweep
Thunder sweeps pink weekend, claims first place in Western Conference
By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer
STOCKTON, Calif. –
By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer
STOCKTON, Calif. –The Stockton Thunder (7-1-1, 15 points) enjoyed goal scoring from five different players and ended Thunder Goes Pink VII victorious in a 5-1 rout over the Alaska Aces (5-4-0, 10 points) in front of 4,194 fans on Sunday at Stockton Arena.
The win completes a three-game weekend sweep, as well as back to back wins over the aces.
In victory, Thunder goaltender Tyler Bunz (5-1-1) made 31 saves on 32 shots. Center Harrison Reed collected three points (1 goal, 2 assists) to lead the Thunder offense.
“I think we’re deep in our lineup right now,” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said. “There are guys sitting in the stands who could come in there and really help us win hockey games every single night.”
With the win, the Thunder matched the 2006-07 squad, which also went 7-1-1 in its first nine games, for best start in franchise history. They claimed first place in the Western Conference and are now tied with Gwinnett for the best record in the ECHL.
Like they’ve done the last three games, the Thunder got on the board early. Forward Toni Rajala took advantage of an Alaska breakdown, scooting down the right side of ice on a breakaway and putting away a fancy backhanded flip to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead just 1:17 into the game.
With time running out in the first period, the Thunder converted on a power play for a 2-0 lead. Rajala passed to defenseman Tony DeHart, who found defenseman Nathan Deck on the left side. Deck fired a shot past the blocker of Aces goaltender Mark Guggenberger (4-3-0) for his first goal of the season with only 8.9 seconds left in the first period.
In the second period, another power play saw the Thunder show off their great distribution skills. Reed sent the puck to center Justin Maylan, who one-touched it to forward Yannick Riendeau, who one-timed a shot past Guggenberger to give the Thunder a 3-0 lead 3:12 into the second frame.
The offense kept rolling in the third period. Forward Garet Hunt got a rebound in front of goal but fell as he attempted a shot. From his knees, Hunt was able to get the puck to Maylan, who slotted it home for a 4-0 lead 3:22 into the third period.
Alaska got on the board 9:49 into the final frame. Russ Sinkewich found Alexandre Imbeault on the right side of the goal. Imbeault finished off the pass to cut the Thunder lead to 4-1.
The Thunder response came four minutes later. Reed converted on a counter attack, after the Aces turned the puck over at the neutral zone, and buried a snap shot from the left circle for the unassisted goal and 5-1 cushion at 13:58 into the third period.
“It’s a credit to our affiliation,” Thomas said. “You always hope to get a lot of good players in recruiting over the summer and I think we snagged a couple good ones. But everyone’s contributing and that’s what you want.”
“I think we’ve shown that we’re a top team in the league,” Bunz said. “We have a lot of guys step up and make play for us. Rajala’s been doing a great job. So have Reed and [Matt] Reber. Guys like Hunt, it’s pretty amazing to watch what they do. Hunt doesn’t get a lot of the credit, but what for me, being a young player, he’s been one of my favorite captains to play under.”
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Mike Little, Cameron Brodie, Phil Mangan, Gabriel Levesque, Jesse Fratkin, and Evan Vossen …. the Thunder have scored at least five goals in three straight games and ended Thunder Goes Pink VII with 18 goals in three games … Rajala has now scored a goal in four consecutive games … the Thunder finished the 2006-07 regular season with a 38-24-10 record
The Thunder will now travel to the Bay Area for the start of a three-game road trip. The first game of that road trip will be Friday, Nov. 9 against the San Francisco Bulls at 7:15 p.m. (1280 KWSX/StocktonThunder.com) at the Cow Palace.
A two time recipient of the ECHL “Award of Excellence,” the Thunder led the ECHL in attendance for four consecutive seasons and drew over 200,000 fans for the seventh consecutive season in 2011-12. Season Tickets, Group Tickets and Mini-Plans 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 www.StocktonThunder.com.
1. STK – T. Bunz
2. STK – H. Reed
3. STK – T. Rajala