The weekend Home and Home series began on painted ice at the Stockton Arena for the Thunder and the San Francisco Bulls. The previous weekend kids, parents and players came out and added their artistic flair to the rink for “Kids Take Over” and then sealed over for the Friday night matchup between the two rival teams. The “We Paint” promotion received national media attention for the Stockton Thunder and was dubbed the “Painted Classic.”
Many were worried how the players would be able to track the puck on such a surface. The Thunder had a bit of a heads-up as they spent the week practicing on the painted ice. In the end, the media and those watching over America One Sports had a harder time keeping track of the puck movement than those on the ice. Thunder Head Coach Rich Kromm commented, “It didn’t seem to affect the players. Both goalies seemed to be fine and that was our biggest worry, was how it would affect the goaltenders.”
Thunder Defenceman Mike Dalhuisen said, “Honestly, I didn’t even notice it out there. The first few practices it was a bit different but for us we got used to it and when the adrenaline starts going, you just forget about it.”
The San Francisco Bulls took the first game of the series on the Painted Ice in what was a close game. The Bulls opened the scoring in the first with Tyler Gron scoring off a beauty of a rebound off the pads of Thunder netminder Brian Foster. Thunder forward Matt Bergland followed up with a shot on Beskorowany from the high slot off a feed from Hunt up the wall. The game remained tied 1-1 through the relatively calm second period.
The Thunder then found themselves deep in penalty trouble. Three penalties piled on top of each other put the Bulls on a 5 on 3 Power play for an extended period of time and new Bulls defenceman Eriks Sevcenko took full advantage scoring 2 goals in the extended power play. San Francisco took the lead 3-1 and Thunder defenceman Landon Oslanski made a comeback bid for Stockton firing a shot from the point that slipped through Beskorowany but it wasn’t enough, the Bulls taking the game 3-2.
“We have to be a little bit smarter with penalties,” said defenseman Mike Dalhuisen. “We lost it on the penalty kill with some dumb penalties with the slashes. They were frustration penalties and you never like to see those.”
The final contest in the 5 game series between the two rivals returned to the Cow Palace where it began. The Thunder took the Bulls by the horns with netminder Parker Milner getting his first professional shutout of his career, blanking San Francisco 5-0. The Thunder, heeding their own advice, did a good job staying out of the penalty box. The Bulls, however, spent most of the second period mired in penalties, taking 5 penalties in the frame, the Thunder power play getting to work. Lee Baldwin tipped in a shot over Bulls netminder J.P. Anderson on the power play after James Henry and Greg Miller got the first two Thunder goals, Baldwin’s made it 3-0 at the end of the second period.
“In Greenville I was quarterbacking the power play at the top of the zone, but here I’ve been looking to get to the back post,” Baldwin said. “I like going back door, and it’s worked out for me so far. Martin made a nice pass to me and I was able to put it behind the goalie.”
The forward line of Mitch Bruijsten, Greg Miller, and Joey Martin continues to showcase their talent for the Thunder. The line generated 2 goals and numerous scoring opportunities throughout the game, continuing their chemistry and momentum they began in last weekend’s 3 game series.
Parker Milner garnered his first professional shutout, making some key saves as the Bulls applied the pressure. He was nothing short of spot on for the Thunder.
“You’re definitely ready for anything against a team like them because they’re always cheating towards the offensive zone and they love to play on the rush,” Milner said. “You just have to be sharp and the biggest thing is getting in the game early, getting your eyes adjusted and playing a good sixty minutes.”
The Bulls came out of the contest the worse for wear with several forwards leaving the game due to injury. Forward Jordan Morrison left after the first period after hitting the boards hard and getting shaken up. Dean Ouellet left during the second period, sustaining an injury to his left arm and Brett Findlay, hobbled off the ice in the third after taking a shot to the groin. Kris Belan wasn’t seen on the ice for the weekend series, having broken his fingers during a fight with Thunder Captain Garet Hunt the previous weekend. San Francisco went into their Sunday game against the Ontario Reign with just 14 skaters, with two defencemen Scott Langdon and Kyle Bigos skating up at forward.
The Stockton Thunder head out on the road to face the Utah Grizzlies for a two game series next weekend while the San Francisco Bulls remain at home to face the Alaska Aces for a three game series beginning on Thursday January 9th.