Thunder Begin Home Stand vs. Utah
The Stockton Thunder (27-22-0-5) take on the Utah Grizzlies (28-20-3-5) tonight at Stockton Arena for the seventh meeting between the teams this season. Arena doors open at 6:30 p.m. with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. PST.
It’s a match-up between two teams in the thick of the playoff fight with the Thunder in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, five points behind the Grizzlies in fourth. Stockton is coming off its first shutout loss of the season on Tuesday to the Bakersfield Condors.
The defeat briefly vaulted the Condors over the Thunder into sixth in the standings due to the tiebreaker of fewer shootout wins. However, the Thunder retook the spot after the Condors lost on Friday night. Utah currently sits in third place in the Mountain Division.
The Thunder have dominated the season series between the teams thus far winning five of the first six meetings including all four games played in Stockton. Tonight is the first of three straight games for the Thunder against the Grizzlies at home as Utah will also be in town for Stockton’s “Easy Being Green” event next weekend on March 14th and 15th.
It’s also the seventh of 12 total games between the teams this season, making the Grizzlies the second-most often faced opponent on the Thunder’s schedule.
The Thunder continue to adjust to life without forward and leading scorer Joey Martin who remains in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Adam Brace has helped fill the scoring void with seven points (four goals, three assists) in his first six games with the Thunder. Forward Ryan Hayes could be the x-factor for the Thunder.
The Syracuse, New York native has one assist in his two games back after missing 39 games on the injured reserve list, but he posted five points (two goals, three assists) in two games against Utah back in November.
Captain Garet Hunt leads all current Thunder players in points against Utah this season. In six games against the Grizzlies he has tallied two goals and four assists. Hunt has career highs in goals, assists and points this season and also leads the Thunder in penalty minutes with 118.
Rookie goaltender Parker Milner will be looking for a repeat performance of the Thunder’s last game against Utah. Milner was in net for a 1-0 win, his second shutout of the season, on February 15th.
The Grizzlies have gotten strong goaltending this season from their duo of Igor Bobkov and Aaron Dell. The two have been named the ECHL Goaltender of the Month in back-to-back months.
Bobkov, a 23-year-old, 6’6” goalie from Russia has a record of 11-5-4 in 20 games with a .919 save percentage. He’s the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Month after going 7-1-0 in February. Dell, 24 years old from Alberta has gone 15-6-2 with a .920 save percentage in 23 games played. Dell claimed ECHL honors in January.
Offensively, forwards David Vallorani and Jamie MacQueen share the team lead with 19 goals each for Utah. Vallorani leads the team in total points with 40 while forward Michael Pelech has the most helpers on the squad with 23.
Saturday’s game is the Thunder’s adult jersey giveaway night with the first 1,500 fans, ages 13 and older, receiving a free Thunder jersey courtesy of Ray Morgan Company, YP.com, Kat Country 103 FM and News10 ABC. Additionally, Relay for Life teams will be in attendance to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. For more information, visit StocktonThunder.com.