Thunder Visit Bulls to Open Five-Game Set
The Stockton Thunder (14-9-0-4) make the short trip over to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco Bulls (10-15-2-1) tonight for a 7:30 p.m. PST showdown between the second and third ranked teams respectively in the Pacific Division.
This is the first of several meetings in a row between the two teams as the Thunder and Bulls square off a total of five times between December 27th and January 4th, including three straight meetings this weekend. It’s the second straight three-game weekend set for the Thunder as they took on the Ontario Reign three times last weekend coming away with three points to add to their season total thanks to a shootout loss last Friday and a win on Sunday.
That victory should give the Thunder some momentum coming into tonight’s game as it was the team’s first of the season over Ontario in seven games this year. The Thunder play the Reign 14 times this season. The only team they face more in the 2013-14 campaign is San Francisco with a whopping 15 match-ups between the squads.
This is the fourth encounter between the Thunder and Bulls with Stockton carrying a 1-1-0-1 record against their division rivals thus far. The Bulls took a 3-2 win at Stockton Arena on November 11th only for the Thunder to bounce back with a 5-1 demolition of San Francisco at home on November 20th. The most recent meeting between the teams came at the Cow Palace on December 14th when fans were treated to a score-fest with 10 combined goals in regulation. The Bulls eventually earned the two points winning the shootout for a 6-5 triumph.
The Thunder will hope to keep the goals coming after a 5-1 win against Ontario to open the week. Team captain Garet Hunt tallied two scores in the eighth multi-goal effort by a Thunder player this season. That outing gives him 11 goals on the season and puts him into the team lead ahead of the 10 from Andrew Clark, who was recently called up to the AHL.
Hunt is now just two goals behind his ECHL career-high of 13 in 2010-11, which he tallied over 60 games in a season where he earned a nine-game call-up to the AHL with the Worcester Sharks. His 11 goals this season have come in just 27 games.
Hunt should not have any trouble adding to his goal haul if top line center Corey Trivino continues to dish out assists at the rate he has been lately. The second-year pro comes into tonight’s game on a six-game point-streak having tallied 11 points on 1 goal and an incredible 10 assists over that span. Trivino currently stands second on the team in points with 23 behind only Clark’s 26.
The Thunder will also keep the Bulls guessing with whom they will have in between the pipes for tonight’s game. Through the first three match-ups the Thunder have used three different goalies against San Francisco with Parker Milner, Brian Foster and Brad Phillips each getting a start. Phillips has since been traded to the Gwinnett Gladiators, but Head Coach Rich Kromm has both Foster and Milner at his disposal. Foster has gotten the majority of the starts with the former 2005 NHL draft pick boasting a 12-3-3 record with 18 starts this season.
The Thunder defensemen will be focused on shutting down Bulls’ forward Tyler Gron as the 24-year-old has gone on a scoring binge since being traded to the Bulls from Idaho last month. In 12 games with San Francisco, Gron has tallied an incredible 17 points with 9 goals and 8 assists. By comparison he had just 4 points in 13 games with the Steelheads to start the season.
After tonight’s match-up, both teams travel back to Stockton for two games at Stockton Arena with a couple special promotions taking place. On Saturday, December 28th, the first 1,000 fans entering the arena will receive a special edition Garet Hunt bobblehead. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. PST with doors opening an hour beforehand at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 29th is “Kids Take Over Stockton Arena” day as kids will be helping with all facets of running Stockton Arena during the game with such jobs as ticket sales executive, off-ice official, broadcaster and much more. Following the game, up to 500 kids will be allowed onto the ice to showcase their artistic talent by painting on the ice itself. The Thunder will then play a game on the newly redecorated surface on January 3rd.