Thunder Face Resurgent Condors
The Thunder’s current five-game roadtrip rolls on tonight when the team heads down the 99 for their second to last trip to Bakersfield this season. Opening draw is set for 7:00 p.m. between the two Pacific Division Rivals.
Fans can head to the Thunder’s official “home away from home” at the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel to watch live coverage of the game on AmericaONE while enjoying special Thunder food and drink specials. Free live audio of the broadcast is available to listen to on Spreaker.com and StocktonThunder.com. Free audio is now also available from AmericaOne on your computer, on iOS devices, and android devices.
The Thunder are coming off of a split series in Salt Lake City when the team was able to win their first game against the Utah Grizzlies in the shootout, by a 3-2 final. Joey Martin became the only shooter to score twice in the skills competition for the Thunder this season while linemate Mitch Bruijsten also added a goal to help down Utah in the first game. Thunder netminder Brian Foster was magnificent, stopping 30 of 32 shots and all 4 shots the Pembroke, New Hampshire native faced in the shootout.
The second game in Utah featured a great comeback effort by the Thunder that was thwarted by a late Utah power play. After being down by 2 through the majority of the second period, James Henry scored a goal with seven ticks remaining to bring the Thunder within one. Utah would score to open up the third period while shorthanded to regain their two goal advantage, but the Thunder would answer back, scoring two-straight powerplay goals to tie the game up at the 8:47 mark in the third period. Garet Hunt scored the first powerplay goal after Lee Baldwin took a shot from the point, and that was followed by a textbook one-timer by Martin after some pitch and catch with Nathan Deck and Ryan Constant.
However that would be the last contribution the team would see from Constant for the remainder of the game as just moments later, the veteran defenseman was belted at center ice by Mike Folkes. Constant left the game with a bloodied eye and would not return. After the game, Head Coach Rich Kromm said that the defenseman should be good to go for the game in Bakersfield.
The game in Utah appeared to be heading back to the extra session, but with just 1:59 left in the game the officials called a penalty on Matt Bergland for unsportsmanlike conduct. Phil Mangan would take advantage as Mangan’s shot from the point had eyes through traffic in front and beat Foster. David Vallorani would then add his second goal of the game by scoring on the empty net to seal the Grizzlies 6-4 win.
Despite the negative end to the game, the Thunder were able to showcase why they have the most dangerous power play unit in the ECHL. The leagues’ best power play unit struck 3 of 7 times to raise their road power play conversion rate to 17.6%, and their overall conversion rate up to 22.6%.
The Thunder were once a big contributing factor to the Condors’ early season woes as they had beaten the Condors three straight times in just the fifth week of the season. However since then, the series has been a bit more even as the Condors would beat the Thunder in the shootout, double up the Thunder on their Teddy Bear Toss night, and then lose to the Thunder in their last meeting on December 15th. Overall the Thunder are 4-1-0-1 against Bakersfield this season.
Martin leads the way in terms of production as he’s picked up 7 points (1-6-7) on his current four-game point streak. Not far behind him in production has been Bergland, who’s picked up 6 points on a current team high five-game point streak (3-3-6) and his linemate, Hunt, who has 5 points (1-4-5) on his current four-game point streak.
The Thunder also got tough-guy Mathieu Gagnon back into the lineup after missing 11 games with an injury. Gagnon finished -1 for the weekend but picked up 19 penalty minutes. However, Ben Rosen missed the both games in Utah due to a minor upper body injury he suffered on January 4th.
With Parker Milner in the AHL, it has been once again all Foster as the team has not yet signed a replacement for the now Bridgeport Sound Tiger goaltender. The team signed an emergency backup goaltender for the series in Utah, and it appears that once again the team will turn to Dave Guy to be the emergency goaltender to finish off the road trip.
Looking at the Condors lineup, the team continues to be led by Captain Joel Broda who has 24 points despite missing the first eight games of the season while in the AHL. Despite leading the team, Broda has been a bit down lately, having been held without a point in his last three games.
The real difference maker in the Bakersfield lineup has been goaltender Laurent Brossoit. Brossoit came over in an early season NHL transaction that saw the former Alaska Aces goaltender and then Calgary Flames prospect Roman Horak in exchange for former Thunder goalie Olivier Roy and NHL defenseman Ladislav Smid. Since being assigned to the Condors by the Oilers, Brossoit has gone 4-2-1-0 with 3 shutouts. The goaltender has only surrendered 11 goals on 155 shots for a .929 save percentage with the Condors. Since arriving, backup goaltender Tyler Bunz has only received three starts, however the former Thunder netminder has won two of them.
Bakersfield started the season an abysmal 3-11-0-1 in their first 15 games, but has since turned the tide going 10-6-1-0 in their last 17 games to take over the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The Condors have a 5 point advantage over the last placed Las Vegas Wranglers.
Once this game is over the Thunder will bus down to Ontario to complete their five-game road trip against the Reign the next day before making their way back home for Teddy Bear Toss night on Saturday, January 18th at 7:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to the game against the Condors and when the Thunder score their first goal of the game, you chuck them onto the ice. All of the bears collected will go to the United Way who will distribute them to various local charities.