Critical Juncture for Thunder vs. Idaho
The Stockton Thunder (29-27-0-6) once again play host to the Idaho Steelheads (34-25-3-4) at Stockton Arena beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Stockton Arena doors will open at 6:30 with the first 1,500 fans through the door picking up a white rally towel to help cheer on the Thunder. The Silver Bullet Bar will begin serving cold Rough & Ready Irish Red to those fans 21 years of age and older at 5:30.
The Thunder and Steelheads renew their rivalry tonight after meeting up for the first time since December 7th, Wednesday in Stockton. That contest started out very similar to the Thunder’s previous game as the team surrendered an early goal to Idaho just 2:48 seconds in.
After Lee Baldwin picked up a penalty for tripping, it would be a shot from the point by Charlie Dodero that Luke Judson deflected past Brian Foster on the power play and in for the 1-0 lead.
Unlike the Thunder’s previous game against Alaska, the team wouldn’t surrender the next goal as about 12:00 later Ryan Hayes deposited one past Idaho goaltender Josh Robinson. Joey Diamond had the puck at the top of the circle but was harassed by a couple Idaho defenders.
In swooped fellow New York Islanders prospect Alan Quine who picked up the puck and zipped a pass back door to Hayes where the forward tapped in his 10th goal of the season.
Idaho would again retake the lead in the second thanks to a goal from the returning Brett Robinson. The forward out of North York, Ontario last suited up for the Steelheads on February 14th missing 19 games due to injury.
Once again though the Thunder didn’t back down and found their offense, this time on the power play again courtesy of Hayes. Despite moving the puck around effectively, the Thunder were held scoreless in their first four opportunities with the extra man.
This time it’d be a broken entry that would lead to Hayes toe-dragging around a defender and roofing a puck past Robinson to tie the game up at two apiece.
Just shy of four minutes later Tommy Grant would put the Steelheads back on top again when he just wristed a shot that handcuffed Foster to make the score 3-2. It didn’t help Foster that the charging Andrew Conboy at the back door looked to be behind the Thunder defenseman and the goaltender looked surprised that Grant opted to shoot rather than pass on the play.
Just 2:20 seconds later Gaelan Patterson would double the Idaho lead, one that the Thunder wouldn’t be able to best on the night as the Thunder drop their second straight game 4-2.
If that last game against the Steelheads was important, this game is extremely important as the Thunder are still chasing Idaho in hopes of moving up the Western Conference standings.
Due the San Francisco Bulls ceasing operations, playoff seeding will be decided not by points but by winning percentage.
The Steelheads, in fifth, have won .568 of their games while the Thunder, who sit one spot behind them, have won .516 of their games and have four games in hand on the Steelheads.
The Thunder are tied with the Toledo Walleye as the teams who’ve played the fewest games in the ECHL as both have played in 62 contests. The Thunder will make some of that up this weekend with three games in three days, and then again this next week when they again play four games in five days. Only five home games remain on the schedule while the team faces three of four road games in Ontario.
Speaking of the Ontario Reign who wrapped up their fourth Pacific Division title in a shootout loss on Wednesday, the Thunder’s lone away game this weekend will take place in Ontario between a couple of Idaho games.
The Thunder will play this game at Stockton Arena against the Steelheads and once the game is over, the team will bus down the I-5 to take on the Reign at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. When they finish that game, the team will bus right back up and finish their regular season series with the Idaho Steelheads on Sunday, a 4:00 p.m. showdown in Stockton Arena.
The game today will feature a white rally towel which will be given away to the first 1,500 fans in the building. The Thunder’s next home game on Sunday will be another Family Day were fans can purchase their Thunder Pride Packs featuring four Upper End Zone tickets, four hot dogs, and four sodas for $38. Purchase your pack online to receive a Thunder hat at no additional charge!
Then the Thunder open up Military Appreciation Weekend on April 4th and 5th with the first 3,500 fans in the building receiving a “Thunderized” WWII propaganda poster on Friday night, and then on Saturday’s game the team will be giving away Thunder military inspired caps to the first 1,500 fans 13-years-old and over.