RECAP: Big Catch

Sunday, 11.18.12 / 7:56 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Rajala nets two as the Thunder improve to 6-1-0 at Stockton Arena

FINAL STATS: Box score
VIDEO: Highlights and postgame reaction – Deck, Maylan, Thomas
AUDIO: Game highlights – Thunder Replay

By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer

STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder (10-3-1, 21 points) held off a late rally by the Idaho Steelheads to avenge Wednesday’s loss to the Steelheads in a back-and-forth 4-3 victory in front of 4,601 fans at Stockton Arena on Sunday.

Forward Toni Rajala led the Thunder with two goals, bringing his season total up to 11, good enough to be tied for the ECHL lead. Center Justin Maylan chipped in with two assists. The Thunder outshot the Steelheads 36-16.

In goal, Stockton’s Tyler Bunz (8-2-1) recorded 13 saves. Idaho’s Tyler Beskorowany managed to stop 32 shots.

“I thought we carried the play,” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said. “I thought we played a really great game as a group. Obviously, you can read into shot totals. It tells the story sometimes, but not all of the time. I thought it was indicative of who carried the play.”

“[Idaho] is a good team,” Maylan said. “They’re a really good team. I think we took it to them in the second and first—in the third too. Good teams find a way to hang around like that. Their goalie was really good. He gave us a few good opportunities, and that’s how the game goes sometimes.”

The Thunder quickly found themselves behind, as the Steelheads controlled the faceoff and took the puck up the ice. Tristan King found Adrian Foster, who fired a shot past Bunz from 30 feet out, putting the Thunder down 1-0 just eleven seconds into the game.

Toni Rajala, now tied for the ECHL goal-scoring lead at 11 goals on the season, came just short of a hat trick on Sunday. (photo by Asvitt Photogrpahy)

During four-on-four play later on in the frame, defenseman Nathan Deck passed to Rajala at the right circle. Rajala carried the puck to the middle, blasting a shot by the pad of Beskorowany, evening the score at 1-1 13:20 into the first period.

In the second period, it was the Thunder who got off to a fast start. Forward Matt Reber dished the puck off to Rajala, who cut from inside to the center. Rajala launched a shot over the stick of Beskorowany, giving the Thunder their first lead of the game, 2-1, just 1:05 into the second period.

At the end of a four-on-four stretch, a deflection in front of the Thunder goal went right to Idaho’s Hubert Labrie, who sent a shot through traffic to tie the game, 2-2 at 11:47 into the second frame.

The Thunder took back the lead with another early-period goal. Maylan worked the puck to forward Garet Hunt behind the Steelhead goal. Hunt wrapped a shot around that bounced off Beskorowany’s left pad. The rebound went right to center Harrison Reed, who put the puck away to give the Thunder a 3-2 lead just 1:23 into the third period.

Just 2:18 later, the Thunder took advantage of a power play when Maylan streaked with the puck down the left side, setting up a two-on-one. Maylan dished the puck off to center Phil Mangan, who one-timed it past Beskorowany’s glove to increase the Thunder lead to 4-2.

The Steelheads cut the lead to one goal 17:50 into the period. Jacob Cepis slotted a shot from inside the left circle past Bunz to make the count 4-3.

“To win at home, it’s key, especially in front of the fans,” Deck said. “They come out every game and support us, so it’s key to win at home. It’s big for the points on the road too.”

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Yannick Riendeau, Gabriel Levesque, Tony DeHart, Matt Bergland, Jesse Fratkin and Cameron Brodie … the Thunder improved to 6-1-0 at home and has not lost at Stockton Arena since Opening Night (Oct. 12) …the Thunder outshot the Steelheads by double digits in each of the first two periods…Nathan Deck has recorded a point in nine of his last eleven games.

The Thunder returns to action in five days, as they host the Bakersfield Condors on Friday, Nov. 23 at Stockton Arena. The puck will drop at 7:30 p.m. ( joined in progress at 1280 AM KWSX).

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

1. STK – T. Rajala
2. STK – H. Reed
3. STK – J. Maylan