RECAP: Hunting Party

Saturday, 01.05.13 / 11:04 PM
By Stockton Thunder Staff

Hunter’s three points power Thunder over Eagles in back-and-forth affair

FINAL STATS: Box score
VIDEO: Highlights and postgame comments from the locker room

By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer

STOCKTON, Calif. – Center Eric Hunter put forth a dominant performance—two goals and one assist—as the Stockton Thunder (19-11-7, 45 points) never trailed in a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Eagles (17-16-3, 37 points) in front of 5,322 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday.

Forward Garet Hunt notched the game-winner with a shorthanded goal in the third period. Yannick Riendeau chipped in with two assists, while Thunder goaltender Tyler Bunz (11-8-3) and Colorado’s Kyle Jones each stopped 35 shots.

“Our penalty kill needed to be good, and our penalty kill scored a goal which ended up being the difference,” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said afterwards. “That was nice. But it was a really frustrating game as a player to play in.”

After needing over 50 minutes to get on the board in the previous night’s game, the Thunder wasted little time in finding the back of the net against the Eagles. Hunter sent in a shot on goal from above the left circle that was deflected by Riendeau. The puck bounced off Jones and right to center Justin Maylan, who sent it into the goal to put the Thunder up 1-0 just 1:47 into the contest.

The Thunder struck again just a minute later. Forward Toni Rajala threaded a pass to forward Philippe Cornet in front of goal. Cornet sent a behind-the-back feed across the net to center Ryan Martindale, who pushed it by Jones to double the Thunder lead 2-0 just 3:50 into the first period.

Center Eric Hunter finished this chance in the second period, collecting the first of his two goals on the night in a first-star performance.

On a Thunder power play, Ray Kaunisto capitalized on a giveaway by the Thunder to finish a breakaway against Bunz, cutting the Thunder lead to 2-1 with a shorthanded goal 7:50 into the opening frame.

With the first period winding down, Steve Haddon sent a shot on goal from just above the right circle. Haddon’s one timer sneaked inside the left post, tying the game at 2-2 just 37 seconds before intermission.

The second period started off like the first, with a quick Thunder goal. On a power play, defenseman Tony DeHart found Riendeau in front of goal. Riendeau whipped a pass to the right post for Hunter, who finished the puck into the net. Hunter’s goal regained the Thunder lead, 3-2, just 1:17 into the middle frame.

Facing the business end of a five-on-three, the Thunder saw their lead vanish when Aaron Schneekloth’s shot bounced off the boards right to Devin DiDiomete, who put the rebound by Bunz to tie the game at 3-3 10:02 into the second period.

Early in the third period, the Thunder found themselves on the penalty kill. After working the puck into the offensive zone, forward Matt Reber dished the puck to Hunt above the left circle. Hunt unleashed a wrist shot that sailed between Brown’s pads, giving the Thunder a 4-3 lead 2:18 into the third period.

“It was a great effort by Reber to get the puck back,” said Hunt. “We executed that well. It was huge for us to get that on a penalty kill at that time of the game.”

On a late penalty kill, Hunter finished off the Eagles with an empty net lob from in front of his own net with 42.5 seconds left.

NOTES: The Thunder scratched Jesse Fratkin, Kevin Noble, Harrison Reed, Ryan Constant, and Cameron Abney … the two shorthanded goals established a new Thunder record for one game … after not committing a penalty the entire first period, the Thunder faced consecutive five-on-three scenarios in the second…Matt Reber collected his first point since returning to the lineup…the Thunder broke a three-game home winless streak with the victory…Tyler Bunz collected his first home win since Nov. 18 against Idaho.

The Thunder will continue the four-game series with the Eagles as the action shifts to the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo. The first of these Colorado clashes is set to begin at 6:05 p.m. (1280 AM KWSX/StocktonThunder.com) on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

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 – E. Hunter
2. STK – G. Hunt
3. STK – T. Bunz