Thunder Win Second Straight Over Reign
The Stockton Thunder finished off their five-game road trip with a 4-2 victory over the Ontario Reign. It was just the Thunder’s second win of the season and second victory in a row over the Reign, with both wins coming on Ontario’s home ice.
The Thunder improved to 19-13-0-4 on the year with the victory as the Thunder finished off the first half of the season in style. The Thunder also ended the Reign’s five-game winning streak while snapping their own two-game slide.
Thunder captain Garet Hunt ended up with a multi-point night, but his second period goal did more than just that. It was a milestone marker for the 26-year-old from British Columbia. Hunt’s 13th goal of the year tied his previous career-high for goals in a season set in 2010-11. It also happened to be Hunt’s 50th career regular season ECHL goal, coming in his 350th regular season ECHL game. Hunt also had an assist and four penalty minutes in the contest.
“It’s a credit to all the opportunities I’ve gotten through the Stockton Thunder organization, to play that many games for the same team,” Hunt said. “I didn’t know that those were my milestones tonight but I always try to give back to this team anyway I can for the opportunities I’ve had.”
The Thunder started the game off well, showing no ill effects following a 7-2 loss to Bakersfield the previous night. Defenseman Mike Dalhuisen engaged in a spirited fight with Ontario heavyweight Riley Emmerson to set the tone for the game. Forward Matt Bergland then opened the scoring 6:05 into the first period as he hammered home a rebound after Reign goaltender Mathias Niederberger denied Hunt’s initial shot.
It stayed a 1-0 Thunder lead until 3:14 remaining in the opening period. Thunder netminder Brian Foster made a blocker save on a great Ontario scoring chance, only to see the rebound deflect in off the shoulder of Ontario captain Derek Couture.
After Niederberger denied Bergland on a wrap-around attempt in the second period, Hunt corralled the puck in the far corner. Rather than playing the puck into a crowded front of the net, Hunt elected to fire it at the net, placing it perfectly off the goaltender’s back and into the net.
“It’s funny, tonight my mom actually mentioned to me after warm-ups that I should try shooting off the goalie,” Hunt said. “So I looked up and saw that the goalie was off the post and I decided to give it a shot and it went in off his back.”
Hunt’s tally came at the 8:39 mark in the period, and the Thunder had a 3-1 lead just 1:12 later when Dalhuisen rifled a wrist shot past Niederberger’s glove for his sixth goal of the season.
The Thunder held that lead into the third period as the Reign made a goaltender switch, putting in newly arrived Jussi Olkinuora from the AHL. It didn’t take long for the Thunder to add to their lead as they struck 4:17 into the final frame. Forward James Henry won a face-off in the offensive zone cleanly back to the point. Defenseman and alternate captain Ryan Constant unloaded on a one-timer that flew past Olkinuora before he could react.
With a three-goal lead the Thunder played sound defensive hockey to keep the Reign in check. However, Ontario cut the deficit to two with 2:10 to go in the game. With both teams playing 4-on-4, Chad Costello picked off a pass and went 2-on-0 with Kyle Kraemer against Foster. Costello fed the puck to Kraemer and finished off a one-timer on the return feed to make it 4-2.
With the extra attacker on the ice, Ontario pressed forward for another goal, but the Thunder held them at bay to deal the Reign just their sixth loss of the season in regulation and make it back-to-back wins at Citizen Business Bank Arena.
“We needed a good effort and it was important for us to come out and be ready to go right off the hop,” Head Coach Rich Kromm said. “I think last night we had about forty minutes of real good hockey that we played but didn’t get the result we wanted. I thought tonight we played a full sixty minute game and it paid dividends for us.”
The Thunder now return home to play the Bakersfield Condors on January 18, at 7:30 p.m. PST. After playing in several other teams’ “Teddy Bear Toss” events, the Thunder will host their own at Stockton Arena. Fans can bring teddy bears and other stuffed animals to the arena to throw onto the ice after the Thunder score their first goal of the game. The items will then be collected and given to the United Way to distribute to local charities. Visit StocktonThunder.com for more information on the event and ticket information.