Garet Hunt’s latest personal milestone with the Stockton Thunder turned out to be a game-winner.
Hunt recorded the 100th point of his ECHL career when he scored what turned out to be the winning goal as the Thunder beat the Bakersfield Condors 2-1 in front of 4,304 spectators at Stockton Arena on Sunday (Mar. 17).
Hunt, who has spent his entire ECHL career with the Thunder and has appeared in a franchise-record 311 games, achieved the milestone point by netting his sixth goal of the season off assists from Mike Little and Matt Ambroz with slightly less than three minutes left in the second period. Hunt’s goal gave the Thunder a 2-0 lead at the time, and it ended up providing the margin of victory after Bakersfield got a goal from Kyle Haines not quite nine minutes into the third period.
Linemate Matt Bergland collected the puck after Hunt’s goal and presented it to Hunt, who is in his fifth season with the Thunder and has been a fan-favorite in Stockton throughout his career.
“It’s special because we won,” Hunt, the Thunder captain, said of reaching the 100-point plateau. “It wouldn’t have been as special if we had lost. It’s always more special when you win and you do something that’s a personal milestone.”
Hunt’s goal supplemented an earlier one by Shawn Weller, who gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead when he netted his 11th of the season off assists from Nathan Deck and Colten Hayes at 6:21 of the first period.
Aside from scoring Stockton’s goals, Hunt and Weller also contributed to a huge penalty kill in the third period, when they rotated as the lone forward on the ice as the Thunder faced a two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes after Ryan Constant and Ryan Hayes were called for simultaneous minor penalties.
In all, the Thunder (34-26-9) killed seven Bakersfield penalties, although Haines scored his goal just as a penalty against Stockton’s Maxime Boisclair expired.
“Our penalty killers did a great job,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “We blocked some shots and got some good effort from all the guys who were a part of it.”
Among that group was Thunder goalie Olivier Roy, who turned in another solid performance and made 29 saves in earning the victory. Bakersfield goalie Brian Stewart was credited with 28 saves.
Newly-signed forward Andrew Clark was in the lineup for the Thunder and had two shots on goal while playing mostly on a line with Weller, who has recorded nine points in his past six games, and Ryan Hayes.
By winning, the Thunder moved seven points ahead of the Colorado Eagles and eight ahead of the Las Vegas Wranglers for fourth place in the ECHL’s Western Conference. The top four teams in the conference at season’s end will earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The loss left the Condors (21-41-5) still trailing the San Francisco Bulls by eight points in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Thunder will be idle until playing back-to-back games against San Francisco on Friday and Saturday (Mar. 22-23) at the Cow Palace in Daly City. The Thunder will close out the regular season with a home game against the Idaho Steelheads on Mar. 30 at Stockton Arena.
The box score from Sunday’s game can be viewed here: