RECAP: Lowering the Boom

Thursday, 12.27.12 / 11:34 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Thunder booms past Bakersfield with four unanswered goals, Bunz’s 29 saves

FINAL STATS: Box score
AUDIO: Game highlights – Thunder Replay

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Matt Bergland collected a goal and an assist while goaltender Tyler Bunz made 29 saves to help the Stockton Thunder (16-9-6, 38 points) boom past the Bakersfield Condors in a 4-2 victory before 3,332 fans at Rabobank Arena on Thursday.

Four unanswered goals powered the Thunder attack and Bergland was joined by Toni Rajala, Teigan Zahn and Phil Mangan, who each contributed with a goal.

Bunz snapped a 0-5-3 streak with the win and made 23 saves in the final 40 minutes.

“I thought we played well – it was a shame we gave up the first goal of the game because we were playing a smart game,” said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. “It was important to respond. The power play and penalty kill really stepped up. The highlight of the night for me was the guys who contributed and hadn’t done it lately. It was good to see our depth players contribute.”

The game started on a physical note with Cameron Abney and Condors counterpart Tyson Gimblett dropping the gloves at the opening faceoff, ending with a pair of Abney punches to knock down the Condors defenseman. But, Bakersfield buried the game’s first goal when David Toews parked a rebound into a wide open net with 5:11 left in the first period after Liam Huculak misfired on a slap shot from the right wing.

The Thunder roared back with a pair of goals on the power play to assume the lead. Rajala tied the game when he converted a rebound at the bottom of the right circle with 3:13 left in the period on a two man advantage.

Bergland followed up by cashing in his fourth goal of the season with 2:49 remaining as he set a screen at the front of the net and deflected Tony DeHart’s slapshot past Condors goaltender Brian Stewart. The onslaught ended a period where the Thunder roared out of the gate with a 19-8 lead in shots.

Zahn broke an eight game scoring drought with his third goal of the season at 7:51 of the second period when he lifted a rebound over Stewart from beneath the hash marks for a 3-1 Thunder lead, seconds after Bergland was denied on a forehand bid while driving to the net from the right wing.

With 17:16 left in the third period, Mangan converted Jesse Fratkin’s feed at the front of the net for his eighth goal of the year and a 4-1 Thunder cushion.

Levi Nelson earned a goal at 8:09 of the third period when he flipped a bouncing puck past Bunz’s blocker, cutting the deficit to 4-2.

Bunz closed out the game with 13 saves in the third period and denied three Condors power play chances in the final ten minutes.

“[Bunz] needed this game in a big way,” said Thomas. “Things haven’t been rolling for him in a little while. It was a shame the first goal went in – it took a funny bounce off the end boards. He rebounded nicely from it and was a difference on the penalty kill. We needed him to be a difference.”

Stewart took the loss with 34 saves.

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Matt Reber, Kevin Noble, and Ryan Constant … the Thunder improved to 5-1-1 over Bakersfield this season and moved to within three points of first place in the Pacific Division (Ontario) … Yannick Riendeau had an assist on Rajala’s goal, giving him 19 points in the last 15 games … ten different Thunder skaters earned a point in the game.

Both teams return to play in a rematch tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. (1280 AM KWSX/StocktonThunder.com) at Rabobank Arena.

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 – M. Bergland
2. BAK – D. Toews
3. STK – T. Bunz