RECAP: Early Birds

Saturday, 12.15.12 / 11:20 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Eagles hold off late Thunder surge as Stockton can’t complete two-game sweep

FINAL STATS: Box score
VIDEO: Highlights and postgame comments from the locker room
AUDIO: Game highlights – Thunder Replay
MORE: Matt Thomas full postgame quotes

By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer

STOCKTON, Calif. – Goaltender Adam Brown made 40 saves on 41 shots, holding off a furious rally from the Stockton Thunder (14-7-5, 33 points) to secure a 2-1 win for the Colorado Eagles in front of 5,291 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday.

The Thunder, who missed their two leading scorers (Harrison Reed and Toni Rajala) due to injuries, avoided a home shutout for the first time since falling to Ontario 4-0 on Dec. 2, 2011. Center Eric Hunter notched the lone Thunder goal late in the third period.

“They came out and played,” said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. “I can give a lot of credit to that team. Their whole team played well. They just outplayed us.”

Tyler Bunz made 31 saves in a losing effort. (photo by Asvitt Photogrpahy)

Goaltender Tyler Bunz (8-6-3) recorded 31 stops for the Thunder.

“Their goalie played a great game,” Hunter said. “But, at the same time, we had some great chances if we go back and look at it. You have to put those away. There were chances with puck rebounds and the goalie sliding across. Yeah, he’s got to make the save, but we have to put it upon ourselves to execute.”

At the end of a very physical first period, Colorado took advantage of a penalty when Chad Costello sent the puck across the face of goal to Trent Daavettila, who set it by Bunz to put the Thunder down 1-0 18:20 into the opening frame.

A scoreless second period gave way to a quick goal in the third, as Jack Combs slipped a shot in through traffic on a power play, doubling Colorado’s lead to 2-0 just 33 seconds into the final frame.

The Thunder escaped the team’s first shutout loss since a 1-0 defeat at Idaho on Jan. 25 with a goal just 1:39 before the final horn. With Bunz pulled for an extra attacker, forward Yannick Riendeau found Hunter in front of goal. Hunter snuck the puck through Brown’s legs, cutting the lead to 2-1.

“Maybe we let them off the hook a little bit,” said Hunter. “But, at the same time, give them credit for a great game.”

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Matt Reber, Kevin Noble, Reed, and Rajala…Hunter has scored goals in three of the last five games and recorded a point in three consecutive games…Yannick Riendeau has recorded a point in seven of the last nine games…Hunter has the fifteenth highest plus/minus ratio in the ECHL…

Up next, the Thunder will take part in a highly anticipated game of the regular season against the San Francisco Bulls at HP Pavilion at San Jose, home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. The puck will drop on Monday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. (1280 AM KWSX/StocktonThunder.com).

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. COL – A. Brown
2. COL – J. Combs
3. STK – E. Hunter

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