(photo credit: Jack Lima Photography)
After winning three straight games against the Bakersfield Condors, the Stockton Thunder could not contain the Condors offense in the last of the four game series, losing 5-2 in a pre-Thanksgiving tilt on home ice. There were some positives to the game; Forward Robert Lipsbergs netted his first professional goal and Tyler Maxwell continued his goal-scoring streak, adding number seven to his tally in a Thunder sweater. Unfortunately, Maxwell, who has contributed heavily to the offensive firepower on a line with Peter Sivak and Jack MacClellan, sustained a lower body injury during the game, making him unavailable for last Friday night’s matchup against the visiting Utah Grizzlies.
Head Coach Rich Kromm was thus forced to shuffle the lines and see if any magic could be created with some different pairings. Kromm paired Tyler Shattock and Peter Sivak on the wing with James Henry centering as they had some success earlier in the season. He put together newcomer Alexandre Mallet with JT Barnett and Jack MacClellan. The new lines produced goals and gave the Thunder an offensive edge to beat the Grizzlies 6-1.
“There was some chemistry there,” said Kromm about the new line pairings. “Sometimes you get lucky and it works out. ”
Sharp goaltending contributed to Stockton’s success. Netminder Philippe Trudeau, who had struggled in net for the Thunder, delivered a solid performance, making 35 saves out of the 36 shots he faced.
“The boys did a good job giving me shots from the outside, so it made my game easier,” said Trudeau about the defense in front of him. “I’ve been practicing pretty hard, trying to get my game back on track, so I think that helped me.”
Head Coach Kromm was pleased with Trudeau’s effort between the pipes. “I thought Philippe was awesome in net for us…He was obviously frustrated in his game and frustrated with not getting a start in a while and I think he really wanted to come in and prove to everybody that he was up to the task, and he showed a lot of character.”
Odd man rushes were the secret ingredient for the Thunder on Friday night. Several 2-on-1 opportunities led directly to scoring chances with the puck in the back of the net in the end. The chemistry between Shattock, Sivak and Henry was evident earlier in the year when the trio were together, but this game showcased their skill as a unit. Sivak is known for his vision on the ice and finds the right places to be, whether it be to place the puck for a teammate or to collect a pass and bury it. He seems to make everyone on his line be a better player.
“We got a chance to play together up in Alaska,” said James Henry about on ice chemistry with Shattock and Sivak. “Those two are great players, they are easy to play with and offensively skilled. I’m just trying to help out on the line as much as possible, be good defensively, win some faceoffs and help out however I can.” Henry has been buzzing around the net as of late, placing himself right in the goaltender’s eyes. His net front presence and good passing from his linemates have netted goals and assists.
Another new line experiment produced for the Thunder. Alexandre Mallet, JT Barnett and Jack MacClellan combined for three goals against the Utah Grizzlies. Mallet had just arrived from the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers and collected 3 points in his debut. He is a big body and is quick with the puck and matches up well with Barnett’s speed and finesse in the offensive zone. MacClellan finds the right spot and drives the net. Barnett has yet to score, but it seems only a matter of time, particularly if the trio remains intact into the weekend matchup with the Alaska Aces.
The Thunder meet the Aces yet again for a three-in-three series on home ice and celebrate “Ten Years of Fantastic Fun” with festivities planned on Friday night. Alaska has been steadily improving their play after a rough start to their season much like Stockton. The Thunder were swept in a three game series up in Anchorage in early November. Both teams sit at just 16 points with the Aces sitting in 6th place in the Pacific and the Thunder in 7th. Stockton would be happy to grab all six points in the weekend games and leapfrog over Alaska, but getting 4 out of 6 points may be more realistic. The Aces have some serious firepower in Olivier Archambault, who just received the ECHL Rookie of the Month Award and gave the Thunder some trouble in front of the net the last time the two teams met.
The Stockton Thunder may be able to feature three goaltenders between the pipes as Kent Simpson, who had an impressive debut with the Thunder against the Bakersfield Condors and then was recalled to Bridgeport, has been returned. The three games series begins Thursday night, with the middle frame on Friday and the final matchup on Saturday.