Thunder Finish 5-Game Set in San Francisco
With the game on the painted ice surface now behind the Stockton Thunder, they now shift focus to playing the San Francisco Bulls in San Francisco tonight at 7:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to head to the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel for the official watch party tonight beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The Cow Palace will play host to the 8th matchup of the year between the two Pacific Division rivals, who square off seven more times after tonight’s contest.
The teams will also be completing a stretch of five straight games played against one another as the teams played a three-in-three to close out 2013, and open up 2014 with a home-and-home series. The first matchup of this five game series was played in San Francisco, and that resulted in a Bulls victory, but the Thunder came back and took the next two matchups on home ice.
The teams would start 2014 off on a colorful note when they square off on the Stockton Arena ice surface that was painted by the fans.
That game last night was a very close contest until the third period. San Francisco’s Tyler Gron opened the scoring up on the power play when he was able to slam his own rebound past Thunder goaltender Brian Foster, playing in his 100th career ECHL game.
Not to be denied, the Thunder came back and tied the game up later in the first when Matt Bergland faked a give to the pinching-in defenseman Lee Baldwin, curled in over the faceoff circle, and ripped a shot that beat San Francisco netminder Tyler Beskorowany.
The second period would remain a 1-1 tie but that would be broken in the third period when the Thunder got in some penalty trouble. The first penalty came as a bench minor when the Thunder got caught trying to make a change with the puck not sent deep enough into the San Francisco end.
With Alex MacLeod serving the too many men on the ice penalty, Head Coach Rich Kromm sent out his penalty kill unit led by Captain Garet Hunt. Unfortunately, Hunt would be whistled seconds later for a slashing call to put the Bulls on the two-man-advantage. Just 45 seconds after Hunt’s penalty, it’d be Nathan Deck who would be called for a slash as well, and sent to the box to give the Bulls extended time with the two-man-advantage.
Playing in his first regular season contest in North America, Eriks Sevcenko would make the Thunder pay as he was able to rifle a shot past Foster with time winding down on the first penalty to the Thunder. Now down 2-1, the Thunder killed off Hunt’s penalty but it would again be Sevcenko who would blast another past Foster to give the Bulls the 3-1 lead.
The comeback effort was on as a fired up Thunder squad took over the momentum as they had a number of chances to beat Beskorowany, but the goaltender came up big.
Landon Oslanski finally scored with under 6 minutes to play when he received the clean faceoff win from Joey Martin. Oslanski cannoned a shot in through Beskorowany to pull the Thunder within one.
However with Foster on the bench for the extra attacker, it’d be the man who got the scoring started, Gron, who would seal the Bulls 4-2 win on the first Painted Classic, when he slid a puck in the open net after receiving a pass from Dean Ouellet.
Gron has really found his form after coming over to the Bulls in a trade with the Steelheads. The 5’11” winger played in 13 games with the Idaho Steelheads and only picked up 3 Goals and 1 Assist all while posting a -5 rating. In 16 contests with the Bulls, he’s picked up 14 Goals, 11 Assists, and has posted a +10 rating. Having played seven matchups against the Thunder (both as a Bull and Steelhead), Gron has 7 Goals and 3 Assists.
On the Thunder side, it has been Martin who has picked up where Andrew Clark and Corey Trivino have left off as he now leads the team with 27 points, and has had eight of those points have come against San Francisco. Part of the success has to do with his linemates Greg Miller and Mitch Bruijsten, who have really found a rhythm and chemistry with one another. Seven of Miller’s 15 points have come against the Bay Area team while Bruijsten has tallied four of his 6 points against the Bulls.
Tonight’s game is also the start of a 5-game roadtrip that will take the Thunder to San Francisco tonight, Utah next weekend, and midweek matchups against Bakersfield and Ontario before making their way back to Stockton for the team’s very own Teddy Bear Toss night on January 18th. Fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to the game, and when the Thunder score their first goal, toss them onto the ice. Once the team and staff collects the bears, they will be donated to The United Way.