Thunder Comeback Bid Falls Short
A late, third period penalty call against the Thunder ended up being all Utah needed as Phil Mangan’s powerplay goal would prove to be the game winner in the Thunder’s 6-4 loss to the Utah Grizzlies.
The game was all about the Thunder’s ability to make a comeback. The team would come back to tie the game at 4 at the 8:47 mark of the third period, however, an unsportsmanlike conduct minor to Matt Bergland gave Utah the power play. While Utah was held at bay on the power play by the Thunder six other times, it would be Mangan’s shot from the center point that found its way through traffic and behind Thunder goaltender Brian Foster.
“It was a seeing eye puck that went through some bodies,” explained Head Coach Rich Kromm. “Unfortunate for us because we battled really hard tonight.” The battle started back in the first period as it’d be Danick Paquette who would get the Grizzlies on the board after he deflected a Gentry Zollars shot past Foster. Just over nine minutes later though, Mike Dalhuisen would skate down the boards, cut in and put a backhand shot on Utah netminder Aaron Dell. Dell made the initial save, but the ensuing scrum in front of the goalie led to Dalhuisen’s fellow countrymen Mitch Bruijsten tapping the puck home to knot the game at one.
The tie would be broken just under four minutes later when David Vallorani made a move around a Thunder defender in the corner, and zipped a back door feed to Vinny Scarsella who tapped in the pass for the Utah lead.
In the second period, it’d be Vallorani himself who’d jump on a loose puck in the slot and slap one past Foster for the two-goal Utah lead.
It appeared that the second period was going to end with Utah up by two, however, James Henry fired a shot that beat Dell, and the officials, as nobody knew if the puck went in or not. After a few minutes of deliberation between the on and off ice officials, it was determined that Henry’s goal, with just seven seconds left in the period, was a good goal.
The Grizzlies would get into some early penalty trouble in the third period as Norm Ezekiel went to the box for tripping, Gentry Zollars went to the box for delay of game, and Mike Folkes went to the box for cross checking all in a span of about three minutes. The Thunder looked to make the goal up, however, D.J. Jelitto got a piece of the puck, found Michael Pelech streaking on the penalty kill, and the former Cincinnati Cyclone scored a breakaway shorthanded goal on Foster. For the Thunder, it was the first shorthanded goal allowed all season.
The Thunder, now down by two, would come back next shift though and see their captain, Garet Hunt, score his team leading 12th of the season down low on Dell, on the power play. Then, it’d be Joey Martin’s turn to score on the power play as his one time blast from Nathan Deck and Ryan Constant tied the game at 4 at the 8:47 mark in the third.
It would stay tied until Mangan scored the Utah powerplay goal and Vallorani iced the game with the empty netter.
A total of 82 penalty minutes were given to both teams. Danick Paquette and J.P. Burkemper fought midway through the first period and both were given Game Misconducts for secondary altercations, and Paquette picked up an extra misconduct for not having his jersey tied down. Mathieu Gagnon was also given a misconduct penalty with 16 seconds left in the game.
One hit that wasn’t called as a penalty was a hit at center ice that left Constant bloodied. The veteran would leave the game midway through the third and not return.
“Ryan will be fine,” said a relieved Kromm. “He got some stitches, lost a bit of blood, and was rattled by the hit, however he will be ok.”
Next up the Thunder head back to California for a Pacific Division rivalry matchup with the Bakersfield Condors Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. They finish their five game road trip on Wednesday when they face the Ontario Reign. After that, the Thunder come back home for two when they host the Bakersfield Condors for Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and San Francisco at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.