RECAP: Short(handed) End of the Stick

Monday, 12.31.12 / 8:29 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Three shorthanded goals doom Thunder in New Year’s Eve bout at Utah

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

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Riley Armstrong scored a pair of shorthanded goals and added an assist to help the Utah Grizzlies send the Stockton Thunder (17-10-7, 41 points) to a 5-1 defeat before a crowd of 8,226 at Maverik Center on Monday.

The Thunder, entering the game with the second best power play in the ECHL and allowing just two shorthanded goals this season, surrendered a team record three shorthanded tallies in the game. Utah held the Thunder to an 0-for-6 clip on the power play.

Toni Rajala buried the only Thunder goal (shorthanded) in the third period. (photo by Centerline Photography)

Toni Rajala buried the lone Thunder in the game, a shorthanded breakaway in the third period.

Both teams played through the first period in a scoreless tie with Tyler Bunz and Utah counterpart Andrew Engelage (34 saves) posting seven saves apiece. Bunz capped off the period with a diving blocker save on Colin Vock’s backhander.

Utah inflicted a three goal damage in the second period on a pair of Armstrong shorthanded goals, beginning at 10:58 when he stole Mike Little’s outlet pass and scored on a forehand deke.

Armstrong then swiped a pass by Tony DeHart at the point on another Thunder power play and buried a snapshot off a breakaway for a 2-0 Utah edge with 9:02 left. It was Armstrong’s 14th goal of the season.

Colin Vock then collected a rebound off the end boards from an Evan Stoflet point shot and slipped the puck into an open net with 13:18 elapsed to put the Thunder in a 3-0 hole.

The Thunder earned another chance to get on the board but squandered a two man advantage of 90 seconds, including a full two minutes with Armstrong in the penalty box for a tripping infraction. Engelage kept the Thunder off the board with 19 saves in the second period as Stockton pounded the net with close chances by Eric Hunter and Ryan Martindale.

Rajala finally got the Thunder on the board with his 18th goal of the season on a shorthanded breakaway with 3:44 elapsed, beating Engelage with a backhander over the glove.

Utah put the game away though with a Mitch Wahl power play goal just 1:04 later for a 4-1 cushion. Colin Vock then buried a backhander on a breakaway at 11:01 for Utah’s third shorthanded goal of the game and a 5-1 lead.

Bunz took the loss with 23 saves.

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Philippe Cornet, Matt Reber, Jesse Fratkin, Kevin Noble, Harrison Reed, and Ryan Constant …Stockton led the game in shots, 35-28 and fell to 7-7-5 on the road this season … Rajala’s goal gave him 11 points in the last eight games.

The two teams meet for a rematch on Wednesday at Maverik Center, starting at 6:05 p.m. (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. UTA – R. Armstrong
2. UTA – A. Engelage
3. UTA – C. Vock