Thunder Drop Reign 4-1 on the Road
The Stockton Thunder made it three wins in a row against Ontario on the Reign’s home ice with a 4-1 victory over the conference and division leaders. The Thunder now return to Stockton Arena to finish off a home-and-home weekend series on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. PST.
Forward James Henry grabbed first star honors by picking up the first goal of the game and setting up defenseman Nathan Deck for the Thunder’s second tally and eventual game-winning score. Goaltender Brian Foster made 29 saves for the victory and was named the game’s second star for his effort.
The Thunder now have a record of 21-13-0-5 on the season with 47 points, just 10 points behind the first-place Reign who fall to 26-8-2-3. The Thunder have now outscored the Reign 13-4 in their three road wins after losing the first six meetings between the two squads.
“I think it was a confidence booster getting that first win and building on it,” Head Coach Rich Kromm said. “We’ve worked very hard against them in the games in Ontario that we’ve won. I think a key to our success has been keeping our foot on the gas pedal and going hard after them on our fore-check, and it’s paid some dividends for us.”
The Thunder got off to an early start as Henry knocked home the opening goal with a power play tally just 1:45 into the first period. Defenseman Ryan Constant and forward Matt Bergland picked up the assists on the play. Henry snapped a shot from the right wing circle that deflected off an Ontario defenseman and over the shoulder of Reign goaltender Jussi Olkinuora.
It stayed 1-0 through the first period as both teams exchanged scoring chances. The Thunder started the second period with 1:29 of carry-over power play time, but instead of doubling their lead, Ontario got back into the game. Jake Hauswirth blocked a shot from Mike Dalhuisen at the point and took the puck on a two-on-one rush. Foster made the initial save but Ontario forward Jason Dale knocked home the rebound for his first goal of the season to make it 1-1. It was just the second short-handed goal the Thunder had allowed all season.
Both goaltenders made some spectacular stops to keep the game tied until late in the middle frame when the Thunder retook the lead. Henry fired a pass to Deck down the right wing boards just as the defenseman was entering the offensive zone. Deck took the pass in stride and ripped a wrist shot into the top corner over the blocker of Olkinuora to make it 2-1 Stockton.
The quieted Ontario crowd was stunned just 1:04 later as the Thunder made it a 3-1 lead. Rookie forward J.P. Burkemper picked up the puck at neutral ice and out-raced the Ontario defensemen down the boards. Burkemper then cut across the face of the crease, avoided the goaltender’s poke check, and deposited the puck into the unguarded net before being tripped up into the far boards. It was the third goal of the season for the 22-year-old St. Louis, Missouri native and it came at the 16:14 mark in the second period.
Early in the third period, the Thunder nearly made it 4-1 as Mathieu Gagnon batted down a clearing attempt by Olkinuora. Defenseman Landon Oslanski put the puck into the empty net only for it to be waived off for a hand pass. The Thunder held down the fort in the final frame and Greg Miller clinched the victory with an empty-net goal with just 5.1 seconds to play. Miller’s 11th of the season puts him into sole possession of second place on the Thunder’s scoring list, just two goals behind captain Garet Hunt’s 13 tallies.
The Thunder’s game on Sunday is a Family Day meaning fans can get a four pack of tickets with vouchers for four hot dogs and four sodas for just $38. It’s also the team’s “Youth Jersey Giveaway” day as the first 1,000 kids, age 12 and under, entering Stockton Arena will receive free youth Thunder jerseys.