(photo credit: Jack Lima Photography)
The two top teams in the ECHL’s Western Conference went head to head for a second time this Holiday week. The Ontario Reign came away with the win on Wednesday night’s contest after an 8 round shootout. Reign Matt Register scored in the 8th round to win it for Ontario. The Reign would again best the Thunder in a 4-1 victory Saturday night. Thunder Captain Garet Hunt scored the lone goal for Stockton and Ontario’s Danny Dries found the back of the net twice.
Thunder Head Coach Rich Kromm said of his team’s play, “I thought they outplayed us all night long and we couldn’t seem to come clean out of our zone for most of the night. We looked like a team that didn’t have any legs and they were beating us to pucks all over the ice.”
Stockton Captain Garet Hunt said, “They are a good team and you can’t take anything away from them. Our energy level just wasn’t there. It was there in spurts, but we need a whole 60 minute game.”
In the first period of action, the Reign got on the board first with a shot by Danny Dries. Derek Couture fired the puck from the top of the circle and Stockton netminder Brian Foster couldn’t control the rebound. Dries picked it up as he flew into the slot and put the puck to the back of the net at 4:30 in to the first period.
Garet Hunt tied the game up halfway through the first as he took a back of the net feed from Andrew Clark and fired it past Reign goaltender Michael Hutchinson. It would be the only goal for the Thunder as Ontario thoroughly outworked and outplayed Stockton in every zone, from board battles to puck possession.
Ontario scored three unanswered goals in the second period, with Stockton giving up several odd man rushes. Reign forward Danny Dries blasted into the Stockton zone past the defense with a pass from Joey Newton and shot the puck as he fell, beating Foster 2-1. Newton then found the back of the net as he and his linemates, Dries and White, created a 3 on 1 odd man rush out of their zone putting Ontario ahead 3-1. Another goal from Kyle Kraemer with assists from Barnett and Lamoureux shut the door for Stockton 4-1.
Coach Kromm felt his team made some poor decisions that allowed the Reign to take advantage and capitalize on the odd-man rushes. “There were a couple there that should never have developed into odd man situations. We would have a high forward, but they would just blow by us with their defenceman jumping and we just weren’t picking up.”
No more goals were scored in the third period of play but two fights broke out. The first between heavyweights Thunder Mathieu Coderre-Gagnon and Reign Riley Emmerson with both headed to box for 5 a piece. Stockton’s Ben Rosen and Ontario’s Matthew Clune dropped the gloves with just a minute left in the frame, both leaving the game with 5 minute fighting majors.
Thunder Captain Garet Hunt feels that they got too loose especially during the second period of play and that they will need to tighten up defensively and get more pucks to the net if they are going to be able to compete with the other top teams in the league.
“They definitely outshot us. We can’t rely all on Foster, he’s an excellent goalie and he’s been playing awesome for us, but we were a bit loose and we have to take care of our end first and then try to get to their end and get more shots.”
The Reign outshot the Thunder 34 to 17 with each goaltender Stockton’s Brian Foster and Ontario’s Micheal Hutchinson being named the CCM ECHL Goaltender of the week in consecutive weeks.
The Stockton Thunder take on the Bakersfield Condors in Bakersfield before heading to Idaho to face the Steelheads for a three game series.
The Ontario Reign face the Colorado Eagles for a two game weekend series at home.