The Stockton Thunder relied on depth to pin a rare home-ice loss on the Colorado Eagles on Saturday night (Jan. 12).
Getting at least a point from nine different players, the Thunder rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Eagles before another sellout crowd of 5,289 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO.
The victory allowed the Thunder to avoid being swept in a three-game visit to Colorado, where the Eagles don’t often lose.
Before Saturday’s defeat, the Eagles (19-17-3 overall; 15-5-1 at home) had won nine consecutive home games, including two in a row against Stockton to climb within four points of the Thunder in the ECHL’s Western Conference standings. The victory allowed the Thunder (20-13-7) to push the gap between the teams back to six points and kept Stockton within striking distance of the first-place Ontario Reign in the Pacific Division race.
“This was a much-needed win for us,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said by telephone after the game. “We needed to come out and get one here. We needed some guys to step up, and they did.”
Yannick Riendeau and Cameron Abney each scored two goals and Gabriel Levesque chipped in a goal and an assist to pace the Thunder. Garet Hunt scored Stockton’s other goal, and teammates Matt Reber and Cameron Brodie each contributed a pair of assists.
Kevin Ulanski had a goal and an assist to lead the Eagles, whose other goal was scored by Jake Marto.
The Thunder started fast and outshot the Eagles 19-5 in the first period on the way to taking a 3-1 lead by the first intermission.
Levesque gave the Thunder a quick 1-0 lead when he scored his third goal of the season off an assist from Brodie slightly less than three minutes after the opening faceoff. The goal was the first in 24 games for Levesque, who hadn’t scored since Nov. 23.
Riendeau extended Stockton’s advantage to 2-0 when he followed Levesque’s goal by scoring not quite two minutes later off an assist from Reber.
Ulanski accounted for Colorado’s lone first-period goal when he scored off assists from Michael Forney and Trent Daavettila at 8:03, but Hunt answered with a goal off assists from Matt Ambroz and Shawn Boutin with about two and a half minutes left before the first break.
Hunt’s goal was his fourth of the season and came moments after Stockton failed to score on an extended 5-on-3 manpower advantage. The Thunder enjoyed the two-man advantage for a full two minutes thanks to simultaneous calls against Teegan Moore for cross checking and the Colorado bench for unsportsmanlike conduct. The sequence also led to the ejection of Colorado Coach Chris Stewart, who was hit with a game misconduct a little more than a minute later.
Colorado’s Devin Didiomete was slapped with a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging in the closing seconds of the first period, and Stockton was presented with another lengthy 5-on-3 advantage when Joey Sides was nailed for tripping in the opening seconds of the second period. This time, Riendeau took advantage by netting his second goal of the game and 11th of the season barely more than a minute and a half into the period. Reber and Tony DeHart were credited with assists on the power-play goal, which gave the Thunder a 4-1 cushion.
Abney scored on a breakaway to give Stockton a 5-1 edge with 1:04 left in the second period, but Marto netted his third goal of the season off assists from Ulanski and Ray Kaunisto with just 4.9 seconds to go to leave the Thunder leading 5-2 at the second intermission.
Abney netted a power-play goal with slightly more than three minutes remaining in the third period to cap the scoring. Levesque and Brodie had assists on the goal, which was Abney’s fourth of the season.
Thunder goalie Cody Reichard made 34 saves, including 19 in the third period, to earn the victory. Colorado’s Adam Brown was credited with 25 saves in defeat.
The Thunder will be idle until facing the San Francisco Bulls on Jan. 18 at Stockton Arena. The game will be the first of three in a row between the teams, who will tangle at the Cow Palace in Daly City on Jan. 19 before squaring off again at Stockton Arena on Jan. 20.
The box score from Saturday’s game can be viewed here: