The Stockton Thunder came from behind twice to close out the weekend series against the Idaho Steelheads, with Andrew Clark netting the overtime goal with just 45 seconds left on the extra frame, the final score 4-3. Brad Phillips made his first start in net for the Stockton Thunder after Parker Milner’s call up to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last week forced Head Coach Rich Kromm to find another netminder. This was his first regular season game since leaving the Ontario Reign’s training camp at the beginning of the season.
“I thought he was pretty steady considering he hasn’t been playing much. He’s had a couple practices with the team. We tested him a couple times tonight on odd man opportunities where he made some real good saves so he was challenged early on and I thought he responded well,” Head Coach Rich Kromm said of Phillip’s first game in net for the Thunder.
Idaho came out of the gate, shooting hard after losing 3-1 to the Thunder on Saturday night. Ten seconds into the first frame, Phillips got his first test of the game, stopping the Steelheads early attempt. The Thunder took an early penalty when a broken play at the blueline by Shawn Boutin turned over the puck to the Steelheads. Landon Oslanski tried to stuff the advance into the Stockton zone and drew a slashing call at 3:17 into the first period, putting Idaho on the power play. Tommy Grant would find the back of the net after the puck was mishandled by Phillips. Mitch Wahl and William Rapuzzi picked up the assists on the goal.
“They got a good bounce across so I just played the puck. I thought they were going to shoot but they went for the other side and I had to scramble over there to get to it and it went off the post and in,” said Phillips of the power play goal.
Another loss at the blueline by the Thunder’s Ben Rosen would again lead to an Idaho power play. As the Steelheads broke into the zone picking up Rosen’s bobbling puck, Stockton’s Jason Clark, recently assigned by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, took a tripping call, sending Idaho back on the power play. The Thunder successfully killed off the penalty and followed up with a good drive into the Steelheads zone. Andrew Clark circled the zone, looking for opportunity to get the Thunder on the board, attempted a wraparound, but Steelheads netminder Ostergard would freeze the puck keeping the score 1-0.
Stockton began the second period on the power play and after settling the puck in the Idaho zone, got to work cycling high to low. Shawn Boutin and Corey Trivino passed back and forth, getting down behind the Idaho net. Boutin then found Joey Martin camped in front of the net, who wristed the puck up and over Ostergard, tying the game 1-1.
Extra-curricular activities filled the middle of the second as Thunder’s Michal Spacek was drilled into the boards. After a little poking and prodding, the two team captains Thunder’s Garet Hunt and Steelheads Justin Mercier dropped the gloves and were promptly sent off to the box to cool their heels, giving both teams time to skate 4 on 4.
At the bottom of second period, the Thunder gained two power play opportunities as Idaho’s Brett Robinson became a marked man, and took 2 penalties in a row, the second being a high stick on Thunder’s J.P. Burkemper. Brayden Irwin put Stockton ahead 2-1 on the power play banging one home from the right circle after Corey Trivino and Joey Martin cycled the puck high to low and fed Irwin a pass from behind the net, beating Ostergard.
The third period opened with more pushing and shoving, Michal Spacek, after an earlier altercation, dropped the gloves with Steelheads forward Gaelan Patterson. Both would go to the box for five, but Spacek would draw a cross-checking call and Idaho got to work on the power play. Tommy Grant found the back of Phillips’ net for a second time, off a feed from Nigro and Wahl to tie the game back up 2-1. Idaho did not waste any time getting another puck to the back of Stockton’s net just 31 seconds later as forward Tyler Gron stepped into the slot and fired the puck past the glove side of Phillips to take the lead 3-2. It was the first time this season that the Thunder have blown a lead in the third period.
Thunder forward Ryan Constant, an impact player throughout the game shot from the point through traffic, where J.P. Burkemper tipped it in to tie the contest 3-3 and sent the contest to an extra frame. Andrew Clark, who had been circling the Idaho net all evening, notched the game winning goal with just 45 seconds left on the OT clock.
“I cycled it down to Hunt, he made a good play to Constant who wrapped it around the net. I was just going to the net, looking for a rebound and then it popped out to me and went in.”
Head Coach Kromm talked about Clark’s hockey sense after the game. “He’s pretty consistent all the time. We know what we are getting out of Andrew every night. He competes hard and he’s very smart and a very creative player. Sometimes I think people underestimate his offensive ability, but he’s very creative and we saw that tonight for sure.”
The overtime win for Stockton gave Brad Phillips his first win with the team and he stopped 27 of 30 shots, not bad for a guy who stepped in when he got the call, after contemplating hanging up the pads. “It felt great to be out there, and to get the win, it was awesome.”
The Stockton Thunder return to action on Wednesday night when they travel to Ontario to face the Reign.The Idaho Steelheads head home to take on the Las Vegas Wranglers on Tuesday night.