Thunder Lose Fourth Straight to Aces, 3-1
The Stockton Thunder (22-20-0-5) fell for the fourth straight game to the Alaska Aces, 3-1 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, AK. The Thunder held the Aces to their fewest goals scored in their four games against Stockton, but Alaska did the same as the Thunder failed to score two goals for the first time.
The scoring started early, earlier than any point this season as Brett Findlay tucked in a goal just 20 seconds into the first period. It was the fastest goal allowed by the Thunder this season, passing Kale Kessey’s tally for the Bakersfield Condors just 33 seconds into their game against the Thunder on November 30. The goal was Findlay’s first for the Aces since being signed as a free agent after the San Francisco Bulls ceased operations.
This time around it was the Thunder’s turn to respond quickly. Brendan Connolly took a high-sticking penalty just 25 seconds later to give the team a power play. The Thunder would make the most of it as Joey Martin found Nick Larson in the slot for a shot on goal. Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman couldn’t handle the rebound allowing Sean Escobedo to swoop in and knock the puck in for the game-tying goal just 1:20 into the game. It was the rookie defenseman’s third professional goal and second against Alaska.
The game stayed tied throughout the rest of the first period and second period. Thunder netminder Parker Milner had a strong game, turning away 21 shots through the first two frames combined including a Connolly breakaway miss that turned into a one-time chance in front for Jordan Kremyr. Coleman was equally good with 18 stops through forty minutes including a glove save robbery on Thunder captain Garet Hunt.
The breakthrough finally came midway through the third period. Alaska captain, and recently named Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week, Nick Mazzolini received a pass from Peter Sivak on the right wing boards. He fired a shot towards the front of the net that Connolly was able to deflect past Milner for his 14th goal of the season and fourth against the Thunder.
The Thunder tried to rally creating a couple chances at the front of the net that Coleman kept out. After pulling the goaltender for the extra attacker with 1:15 to play, the Aces were able to steal the puck in their defensive zone and move it out to Sivak at center ice. The 31-year-old from the Czech Republic made no mistake, burying a shot into the empty net from just outside the blue line for his team-leading 18th goal of the year.
Overall the Aces top line of Mazzolini, Sivak and Connolly posted a total of five points giving them a combined 26 points against the Thunder in their four games. Coleman finished the game with 29 saves to claim the first star honors while Milner was named the games third star with 33 saves to his credit.
The Thunder and Aces both get a day off to practice and prepare for the final meeting between the teams in Alaska this season when they face-off for the fifth straight time on Thursday. Puck drops at 8:15 p.m. PST (7:15 p.m. AKT).
The Thunder return home after Thursday’s game for a quick turn-around at Stockton Arena, as they host the Utah Grizzlies on Saturday, February 15. The game is the team’s Star Wars night event as the Star Wars universe invades the arena. Fans are encouraged to dress as their favorite character, and the first 1,000 fans entering Stockton Arena receive free Lightsaber Thunder-Sticks. For more information visit StocktonThunder.com.