Thunder Open Kelly Cup Playoffs at Home
The #7 Stockton Thunder, defending Western Conference Champions, begin the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs at home tonight. They take on the #2 Ontario Reign in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinals series at 7:30 p.m. PST at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder and Reign met 16 times in the regular season, the most games against an opponent on either team’s schedule. The Thunder went 6-7-1-2 in those contests, but won only one game against the Reign at Stockton Arena in seven tries. On the other hand, the Thunder won five games and claimed at least one point in seven of the nine games played at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
The Thunder finalized their 23-man playoff roster earlier in the week by adding forwards Mathieu Gagnon and Alan Quine along with defenseman Andrey Pedan to the initial list of the 20 players announced by Head Coach Rich Kromm on Monday. The postseason roster includes 11 players under AHL contracts and 12 players who appeared in 40 or more games for the Thunder in the regular season. There are 10 players on the playoff roster who will be making their ECHL postseason debuts, while only five players have been in more than one postseason as a pro.
The Thunder are led by experienced playoff performers in forward and captain Garet Hunt and defenseman and alternate captain Ryan Constant. Hunt has the record for most postseason games in Thunder history with 61 appearances. Constant is behind him having played in 50 ECHL playoff games, 42 of which have been with Stockton.
Joey Martin finished the regular season as the team-leader in goals, assists and points. He 66 points were the ninth-most points of any player in the ECHL this season. The Thunder also saw the last of Jeremy Langlois’ regular season as he finished off a first year campaign that earned him ECHL All-Rookie Team honors, after spending most of the season with the Evansville IceMen.
The team is coming off its best finish in franchise history when the Thunder claimed the Bruce Taylor Trophy as Western Conference Champions in 2013. This is the Thunder’s eighth straight playoff appearance, as the team has made the postseason in every year besides their inaugural campaign. The Thunder have an overall record of 38-38 in playoff games and have gone 7-7 in postseason series in their history.
Ontario won the Pacific Division title for the third straight season and fourth year overall to claim the #2 seed in the playoffs. They also finished with the second-most points in the Western Conference, finishing two behind the Alaska Aces in the race for the Brabham Cup, as ECHL regular season champions.
The Reign are led by forward Matt White and defenseman Matt Register. White finished with 57 points, the most on the team, and the fourth-most by a rookie player in the league. Register picked up ECHL Defenseman of the Year honors for his strong season that included 44 points on 14 goals and 30 assists in 67 games.
The Reign have also gotten back noted-Thunder killer Jake Newton. The defenseman put up 10 points in just 10 games against Stockton this season before being called up to the AHL by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and missing the remainder of the ECHL regular season.
They were bounced from the playoffs last year in the Western Conference semi-finals by the Idaho Steelheads, but did complete a franchise first by winning a playoff series against the Utah Grizzlies in the opening round.
This is the second playoff match-up between Stockton and Ontario. The two teams faced each other in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs with the Thunder skating away with a series victory in seven games, 4-3. That came in Ontario’s inaugural season, a year where the Reign also won the Pacific Division.
The first 2,500 fans entering Stockton Arena tonight will receive a Garet Hunt trading card. Special playoff ticket packages are available through the Stockton Thunder front office by calling 209-373-1500. Fans can get tickets to the first round of the playoffs for free with the renewal or purchase of a Thunder Mini-Plan, or get tickets to all the Thunder’s 2014 playoff games for free with the purchase of a new season ticket. For more information, visit StocktonThunder.com.