BENTON’S BLOG: Calm, Cool and Collected

Friday, 02.22.13 / 12:20 PM
By Mike Benton

With the Stockton Thunder getting closer to securing a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, you’d think there’d be plenty of buzz.

With the fans, it’s true. With the players? Better double check that one.

First thing’s first – there’s no morning skate to generate a visual of anticipation. After last night’s 4-1 win at Bakersfield, the Thunder opted for rest this morning with tonight’s game bearing an endurance test of three games in three days. Plenty of players will remind you that it’s about preserving what’s left in the tank during this time of year.

Sunday’s game will be the fourth game in five days. The bed is better than the boards at 11:00 a.m.

In addition, there hasn’t been much internal talk at all about a playoff spot. That’s not to say there’s no excitement. But with 14 games to go (the regular season won’t end for another month), the leadership – beginning with Matt Thomas, captain Garet Hunt and moving all the way to two-time captain Shawn Weller (Bakersfield and South Carolina) – has higher sights on greater prizes. It involves the months of April and May – ending with a shiny trophy named “Kelly.”

It’s pretty clear they’re in the position to take care of business, with a business-like approach. They’ll leave the hoopla to the Thunder faithful, who can begin to party as early as tomorrow.

The magic number is four points to clinch a berth. Technically, it ties Bakersfield (the Condors can do no better than 69 points this season). But the Thunder owns a tie-breaker with the Condors. A win tonight knocks the magic number down to two.

Stockton’s off tomorrow. Bakersfield gets Ontario. If the Condors lose in regulation, that’s two more points lost and a playoff ticket can be punched. That means the Thunder could already be playoff bound by the time they arrive at Stockton Arena for Sunday’s 4pm game against the Reign.

There’s calmness, confidence and focus.

Most recently, a spike in contributions have fueled those qualities:

* Goaltending – Olivier Roy has 101 saves in 103 shots.
* More goaltending – Tyler Bunz has a .924 save percentage since Feb. 7.
* Gabriel Levesque has 7 points in the last 8 games.
* Brandon Davidson (how good has he been on the power play?) has 5 points in 5 games since joining the team.
* Shawn Weller’s heating up after getting on the board last night with a goal. He’s got 3 points in 3 games.
* Eric Hunter has 5 points in 5 games.
* Matt Reber has 5 points in 5 games.

We’ll talk with you at 6:45 p.m. on 1280 AM KWSX and AmericaOne.

Mike Benton has served the Thunder as television and radio play-by-play announcer since the team’s inception. Got a question or comment? Follow Mike on twitter at twitter.com/Benton_mike

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