The Stockton Thunder faced off against the Colorado Eagles for a Saturday night matchup at the Stockton Arena. The Thunder were looking for a win after being defeated at home by the Ontario Reign 5-2 last weekend and the Colorado Eagles came in to the game with a loss to the league-leading Reign earlier in the week, seeking redemption. The Eagles would come out on top after the Thunder came out of the gates on fire, scoring 3 goals in the first frame, only to let it all slip away in the second period, Colorado defeating Stockton 7-5.
“We were two different teams in the first period and the second period, ” said Thunder Head Coach Rich Kromm. “In the third period, they capitalized on the power plays. They are a very skilled team offensively and we knew that if we gave them opportunities, which we did, they could capitalize.”
The game followed a similar path for the Thunder with a strong first period and a slumping second, something that was apparent in last weekend’s matchup against the Ontario Reign. The Thunder came out strong in the first frame, but then let the momentum slip away in the second, and then did not push back hard enough in the third to get the win against Ontario. In last night’s contest against the Eagles, the game was a back and forth battle in the third period as both teams pushed for the win, with Colorado taking advantage of Stockton’s loose play in the neutral zone.
“We have to get pucks in deep all the time we can’t turn pucks over inside the bluelines,” said Kromm. “Colorado is a very skilled team, they thrive on transition opportunities and we gave them transition opportunities when we weren’t playing smart. Every time we got it deep and worked the back of net, good things happened. When we didn’t do that we end up playing in our end.”
The Colorado Eagles benefited from the return of forward Jesse Mychan (1g-0a), who just returned from a stint with the AHL Portland Pirates, and a strong game by Trent Daavettila (2g-1a), Kevin Ulanski (1g-1a) and Kyle Ostrow (3g-2a). Ostrow garnered 5 points in the contest and netted his first hat trick with the Eagles. They capitalized on two out of three power play opportunities and successfully shut down the Thunder’s league leading power play, killing 2 for 2.
Thunder Captain Garet Hunt opened the scoring just 40 seconds into the first period, finding the back of the Eagles net off a feed from Bergland, who took a big hit at the blueline before passing to Miller, who then found Hunt in the slot. It marked a career high for Hunt for goals in a season at 14 and he leads Stockton in goal scoring and also has a career-best in points in a single season with 32.
“It’s a good personal milestone to achieve and I’m happy to surpass my old season high,” said Hunt. “It would have been that much sweeter if we could have gotten the win tonight. I always say that you can’t always focus on points, it’s a team game.”
James Henry put the Thunder ahead 2-0 a little over a minute later with Sean Escobedo collecting a rebound after Henry shot right off the faceoff. Escobedo would then go on to score his first professional goal putting Stockton ahead 3-0.
“It was a great feeling to score and to help the team out in the first period,” said Escobedo. “We had a really good first period and my goal just started with Miller on the faceoff and ended in the net.”
The second period marked the Eagles offensive dominance as they racked up 3 goals by Mychan and Ostrow to tie the game by the end of the frame. The Thunder wouldn’t go out without a fight, however as Stockton’s blueliner Mike Dalhuisen stirred things up with Eagles’ Jesse Mychan. The flying fists energized the fans and seemed to boost the resolve of the Thunder, who were flatlining in the middle of the period.
The third period went back and forth as goals came in quick succession. J.P Burkemper would put one away for the Thunder first off a rebound from Eagles’ netminder Brown. Colorado’s Kevin Ulanski then tied it up at 4 on the power play. Stockton’s Henry would score his second of the night to put the Thunder up 5-4, but Colorado’s Trent Daavettila tallied another power play goal to tie the game once more 5-5.
Kyle Ostrow put the game away and got the hat trick off a flukey play, the puck going off the net on a clear attempt by Thunder goaltender Parker Milner. Ostrow collected it behind the net to send it back on net, and the puck bounced off Milner’s skate and in. Daavettila sealed the deal with an empty net goal, the Eagles with the win over the Thunder 7-5.
The Colorado Eagles will finish up their road trip when they face the Las Vegas Wranglers for a two game series and then head to Idaho to take on the Steelheads for a 2 game weekend series. They will have a new offensive powerhouse as Reign sniper Kyle Kraemer was traded over the weekend for forward Dylan Hood and defenceman Jason Beatty.
“Kyle has the ability to take over a hockey game and is a proven scorer at this level,” said Eagles head coach and general manager Chris Stewart. “I feel that this is one of the pieces that we needed to put in place in order to help us achieve our ultimate goal of winning the Kelly Cup this season.”
The Thunder head out for a long road trip visiting the Bakersfield Condors and Ontario Reign before heading to Alaska for an extended 5 game series. The Thunder will be missing blueline powerhouse Nathan Deck as he left for Germany to join the Ravensburg Towerstars. Coach Kromm said that it was difficult to lose him but that it was something that Deck had wanted to pursue, playing at the elite level in Germany.
“Nathan was arguably one of our top two defensemen and he’s a tough guy to replace at this point,” said Kromm. “We’ve got enough guys, and somebody else is gonna have to step up.”