Thunder Trying for Win #2 vs. Reign
The #7 Stockton Thunder try to make it two games to none tonight at Stockton Arena when they host the #2 Ontario Reign at 7:30 p.m.
Doors open to the rabid and loud Stockton Thunder fans starting at 6:30 p.m. with the Silver Bullet Bar pouring cool and refreshing Rough & Ready Irish Red to fans 21-years-old and over starting at 5:30.
You’ll want to get here early for sure as the first 2,500 fans entering Stockton Arena will receive the second trading card in the set of four, which features alternate captain Ryan Constant.
To get cards three and four, just take your Garet Hunt or Constant card to show the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel, and upon purchase at Del Bistro, you’ll receive either card three, Joey Martin, or card four, Andrew Clark to complete your set!
Giveaways are great but the meat and potatoes of tonight lies on the Thunder’s ability to carry the momentum, along with the same intensity from Game 1 last night into Game 2.
The Thunder, who played game number 17 of the season against Ontario last night, came out of the gates hot, showcasing to all in attendance that the team has stepped up their game for playoff hockey. They were fast, furious, and moved the puck well and ended the game with the 3-1 victory.
It all started early in the first period, exactly 4:00 minutes in when the Thunder’s ECHL All-Rookie, Jeremy Langlois, would receive a pass off the boards from Constant. With the Thunder in the midst of the change, Langlois tried getting the pass from Constant earlier but the veteran didn’t bite as Langlois was being followed closely by Ontario’s Cody Sol.
However, Langlois skated toward the near side boards and that was when Constant rocketed a pass off the boards and onto the tape of Langlois’ stick. The former Evansville Icemen player used his speed to get around Cody Sol, dangled around another defender and made the goaltender J.P. Anderson bite on the fake forehand before the winger stuffed it backhand to start the Thunder’s defense of their Western Conference Championship off right.
The Thunder dominated the first period as they peppered Anderson with 18 of their 39 shots while holding Ontario to just 5 attempts on goaltender Brian Foster. During the regular season the Thunder were 26-10-5 when scoring first and were also 19-5-2 when leading after the first 20 minutes of play.
They’d have to continue to put the pressure on Anderson and that they did. Just 20:52 after Langlois’ goal, it would be the winger again entering the Ontario zone, looked and found Martin, who buried a wrist shot past the outstretched blocker of the right handed catcher Anderson to put the Thunder up 2-0.
The Reign would finally get something positive going 11 minutes later when Jonathan Parker won an offensive zone faceoff to Kyle Bigos who then drifted to the center point and ripped a low wrister that beat Foster through traffic to cut the Ontario deficit in half.
Despite the goal the Thunder responded well and put forth a good effort for the remainder of the period but were unable to beat Anderson again in the second. The second period would be the only period the Thunder would be outshot by the Reign.
The team came back as strong as they did in the first 40 minutes but not without surrendering a few quality scoring chances to the Ontario Reign, thus beginning the “Brian Foster” show.
With Ontario’s Parker in the sin bin for a hooking minor, the Thunder began their third power play of the game but started it off an a shaky note when a turnover at the Ontario blueline gave the Reign a 2-on-1 the other way.
That odd man rush was worked to perfection with Lane Scheidl receiving the pass perfectly for what should have been an easy tap in goal past the goaltender in the open net to tie the game near the midway mark in the third.
Seconds after Scheidl had the scoring chance he’d be shaking his head because he was robbed of the tying marker by the glove hand of Foster on the amazing desperation save.
The Thunder, who up until that point hadn’t really surrendered such a high quality scoring chance the entire game, were awakened by the near tying goal as the ensuing faceoff would result in the Thunder carrying the puck back in the Ontario end and Ryan Hayes putting the Thunder up by two on the power play, after his wrist shot beat the glove hand of Anderson.
Hayes really looked to pick up where he left off last year not only in the offensive department, but he was all over the ice and played the “wrecking ball” role we hadn’t seen him play all season long. The Syracuse, New York native made a statement that he was not going to be pushed around in this series without fighting back as he finished his checks on the much bigger Ontario defense and mixed it up with the 6’5” Sol multiple times, resulting in the Thunder winger receiving a cross checking and slashing penalties.
The Reign would have one last shot at trying to make the end of the game interesting after the Thunder built the 3-1 lead but once again the man minding the Thunder pipes came up big with a scorpion-like save while lying on the ground.
Foster down and out on the play, saw the Reign with the puck just feet in front of him. With so much net to shoot at it would take a special desperation save to keep the Thunder ahead by two and that’s exactly what happened as Foster, lying on his stomach, lifted the back of his pad up off the ice and denied another should be goal.
His team did the rest of the job and killed off the remainder of the game, taking Game 1 by the 3-1 final. Foster finished stopping 26 of 27 shots.
Now the Thunder ready for Game 2 today with their confidence and swagger restored after a difficult March and an April that saw them finish the regular season winning four of their last seven.
If the team wants to increase their series lead they’ll once again have to dominate the physical game, skate fast, and continue to play a smart, defense first, brand of hockey. They received great contributions from each line and players up and down the lineup were able to rattle the Ontario team from the opening whistle.
No doubt though that the Thunder cannot take this Ontario team for granted as Reign Head Coach Jason Christie will have his team ready to go in Game 2. His team was pushed around and bullied by the Thunder for much of the first game and he will have his #2 seeded side ready to come out with a better effort tonight.
That means the chess match will continue on the Stockton side of things when Thunder Head Coach Rich Kromm will have to prepare his guys to be even better than they were last night if they hope to gain the 2-0 series advantage.
It all begins again tonight when the officials drop the puck on Stockton Arena ice to kick off Game 2 at 7:30 p.m.