Stockton Brings the Thunder in Game 1
The Thunder started the Western Conference Quarter Finals on a high note as they took down the Ontario Reign 3-1 to take the early 1-0 series lead.
“We got a bit of a gift here getting the first two games at home in our building on a Friday and Saturday so we wanted to make sure we take advantage of that,” said Head Coach Rich Kromm. “You have to win your games at home and to get a start like that was pretty important.”
The Thunder took little time to generate shots on Ontario goaltender J.P. Anderson, connecting on 18 in the first period alone. One of those 18 shots found its way in past Anderson courtesy of forward Jeremy Langlois.
With Ontario in the middle of a change, defenseman Ryan Constant held the puck until Langlois was close to the boards, and then banked a pass to Langlois. The rookie forward then used his speed and skill to dipsy doodle around a defenseman and finish the play faking forehand, and going backhand to beat the Ontario goalie
“It was just kind of a broken play in the middle and Constant game me a great indirect pass,” said Langlois. “I then took it wide then cut in and their goalie bit on the first one so then I was able to slide it in.”
The Thunder then doubled their lead in the second period with a tally from forward Joey Martin. The play started with forward Andrew Clark feeding the outlet pass to Langlois. After gaining the zone, Langlois drop-passed the puck to Martin who fired a wrister past the blocker of Anderson to give the Thunder the 2-0 lead.
With both teams skating with four players aside thanks to matching roughing penalties on each teams captain, Garet Hunt and Derek Couture, Ontario finally got on the board to cut the deficit in half.
Off the faceoff win from forward Jonathan Parker, defenseman Kyle Bigos gathered the puck, drifting to his right before taking a wrist-shot through traffic to beat Thunder goaltender Brian Foster.
“Foster made a couple saves that were out of this world, including the 2-on-1 at the end,” said Kromm. “That was exactly what we needed there, for him to step up for us, and he certainly did.”
With the Thunder on the power play, the Ontario Reign forced a turnover and counterattacked with a 2-on-1 ending with Lane Scheidl attempting to tap an easy backdoor feed in.
However, Foster stretched across to make the desperation save, which turned out to be the play of the game.
On the ensuing faceoff, the Thunder power play regained the Ontario end and it would be the wrecking ball of the night, Ryan Hayes, stretching the Thunder lead to two.
“Langlois had the defenseman beat and I saw him rim it,” said Hayes. “Then it was a nice screen in front and I had a lot of glove to shoot at so hopefully I can make that one.”
Hayes, who showcased what playoff intensity is, earned the third star for his goal, 4:00 in penalties, and his numerous hits that left the Ontario players rattled.
The Reign had one more quality scoring chance of the game but Foster was able to make another amazing desperation save by lifting his leg while lying on the ice to deny another “should be” goal. Foster ended the night stopping 26 of 27.
The Thunder will take the next few hours to enjoy the win before forgetting about it and moving on to Game 2 which takes place at Stockton Arena tomorrow with puck drop at 7:30.
Stockton Arena doors will open at 6:30 with the first 2,500 fans in the stands getting their hands on card two of the four card series, a Constant trading card.
The series shifts to Ontario for back to back contests on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games beginning at 7:00 p.m. Fans can take their new Garet Hunt and Ryan Constant cards to the Thunder’s Home Away from Home, the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel, to pick up cards three and four, an Clark and Martin card, by purchasing something at the hotel and presenting the card.