RECAP: Business as Usual

Friday, 11.23.12 / 11:15 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Offense continues before to roll before 5,616 – Thunder seizes division lead

FINAL STATS: Box score
VIDEO:

Highlights and postgame reaction – Matt Thomas
AUDIO: Game highlights – Thunder Replay

By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer

STOCKTON, Calif. – Despite the absence of their two leading scorers – Toni Rajala and Philippe Cornet – on call-ups to the AHL, the Stockton Thunder (11-3-1, 23 points) did not miss a beat, rolling over the Bakersfield Condors 6-3 in front of 5,616 fans at Stockton Arena on Friday.

Center Gabriel Levesque stepped up for the Thunder, recording three points (one goal, two assists). Six different players scored for the Thunder, providing goaltender Cody Reichard (3-1-0) with plenty of offensive support. Reichard recorded 22 saves, while Bakersfield’s Brian Stewart stopped 44 shots.

“What can you say about guys like Levesque and [Yannick] Riendeau,” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said. “There was their opportunity to step up and they both played fantastic. We always keep forgetting that [Eric] Hunter guy, but he seems to really make the line go. It was just a great effort all the way through.”

The win boosted the Thunder into first place in the Pacific Division and to a 4-0-0 record against Bakersfield this season.

Early into the game, defenseman Tony DeHart worked the puck to Levesque in the right circle. Levesque cut the puck back, slotting a pass between two defenders across goal to a waiting Riendeau, who put the pass into the back of the net for the goal, giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead just 5:04 into the first period.

Bakersfield’s Alex Hudson would tie the contest at 11:22 into the period. Hudson launched a slap shot that managed to squeak past Reichard, putting the score at 1-1.

The Thunder would provide a response just 1:43 later. On a power play, defenseman Dan Ringwald controlled the puck in the middle below the blue line before sending a pass to center Harrison Reed on the left side. Reed’s one-timer beat Stewart, putting the Thunder on top 2-1.

A faceoff in the Stockton defensive zone was won by Peter Boyd of the Condors. The puck shot back to Francis Meilleur, who sent a shot by Reichard, evening the count at 2-2 with 16:39 gone into the opening period.

Early in a second period penalty kill, Bakersfield’s Zach Cohen sent in a shot from center that ricocheted off Reichard’s right pad. The rebound went right to Olivier Dame-Malka, who shot it into the net to put the Thunder behind 2-1 just 3:20 into the second period.

Justin Maylan helped the Thunder break the game open with a goal in the third period. (photo by Asvitt Photogrpahy)

The Thunder pulled even 17:49 into the second period. Hunter carried the puck behind the Bakersfield goal, sending the puck to a streaking Nathan Deck in front of goal. Deck’s initial shot was saved by Stewart, but Deck stayed with it, putting away the rebound to even the game at 3-3.

Not done yet, the Thunder struck again with just 30.8 seconds left in the period. On a power play, Riendeau gathered his own rebound behind the Condors goal. Riendeau found Hunter between the circles. Hunter sent a snap shot that whizzed by Stewart’s stick, sending the Thunder into the lead again at 4-3 heading into intermission.

“I think both goals were big,” Hunter said, “We had the pressure on them all period. We had tons of chances. If think if we don’t score those goals, we have a hard time winning that game.”

Midway through the third period, a scrum in front of the Bakersfield goal resulted in a clearance to DeHart, who sent the puck back towards goal. DeHart’s shot was redirected by center Justin Maylan, ending up in the back of the net. Maylan’s goal made the score 5-3 9:58 into the third period.

The Thunder added onto the lead just 1:19 later. Levesque scooped up a loose puck and sprinted towards goal. With one defender to beat, Levesque cut to his left and blasted a shot through traffic which beat Stewart’s glove. Levesque’s unassisted goal, his first since Oct. 13, upped the Thunder lead to 6-3.

“It was a huge game for us mentally and from a confidence standpoint,” Thomas said, “We needed to play that type of game where guys step up.”

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Cameron Brodie, Kevin Noble, and Matt Bergland…Jesse Fratkin returned to the Thunder lineup for the first time since the team’s third game of the season (Oct. 19)…Yannick Riendeau recorded his 100th point in his ECHL career with his first period goal…the Thunder have scored four goals or more in six consecutive home games…the Thunder outshot Bakersfield 25-8 in the second period…the Thunder reached the 50-shot mark for the first time this season … Stockton mayor Anthony Silva was in attendance at the game.

The Thunder will next travel to San Francisco for tomorrow’s contest against the Bulls. The puck will drop Nov. 24 at 7:15 p.m. 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

THREE STARS:
1. STK – G. Levesque
2. STK – Y. Riendeau
3. STK – C. Reichard