Something about the Stockton Thunder apparently brings out the best in Alexandre Imbeault of the Alaska Aces.
Imbeault had a hat trick against the Thunder on Sunday (Feb. 10), when he provided all the offense the Aces would need to claim a 3-1 victory in front of 3,379 spectators at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The three goals gave Imbeault 14 for the season. Remarkably, eight of them have come in 10 games against the Thunder.
The outcome left the Thunder winless on a four-game road trip. After launching the trip with a loss in Bakersfield, the Thunder went 0-2-1 during a three-game stay in Alaska. The Thunder’s next game will be back on home ice on Feb. 15, when the Ontario Reign will visit Stockton Arena.
“It was another tough one,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said by telephone after the game. “We had some chances, but we just couldn’t bury them.”
Following a scoreless first period, the Thunder (24-20-9) did manage to take a 1-0 lead when Ryan Constant scored a power-play goal slightly more than seven minutes into the second period. Mike Little and Gabriel Levesque had assists on Constant’s goal, which was his sixth of the season.
From there, Imbeault took charge. He netted a pair of power-play goals before the end of the second period to allow the Aces (35-11-5) to carry a 2-1 lead into the second intermission, and added an even-strength goal early in the third period to seal the outcome.
Less than a minute after Constant’s goal, Stockton faced a penalty-killing situation when Garet Hunt was called for tripping. Imbeault tied the game during the Alaska power play, scoring off assists from Steve Ward and William Wrenn.
The goal was somewhat controversial because Thomas said he thought Imbeault batted the puck into the net with his hand and that the goal should have been disallowed, but it was ruled good by referee Frederic Leblanc.
“He (Imbeault) didn’t even have a stick in his hands,” Thomas said. “He was on his stomach and he swatted it in. We shot ourselves in the foot by taking a penalty right after we scored, but that was a bad goal and it changed the whole momentum of the game.”
Imbeault’s second power-play goal came almost exactly four minutes after his first, when he scored off assists from Bobby Hughes and Tommy Mele. Imbeault effectively put the game out of Stockton’s reach when he completed his hat trick by scoring off assists from Mele and Zach Harrison not quite three and a half minutes into the third period.
The Aces enjoyed a 44-22 advantage in shots for the game, and Alaska goalie Mark Guggenberger had to make only 21 saves to earn the victory. Thunder goalie Tyler Bunz recorded a career-high 41 saves in absorbing the defeat.
The box score from Sunday’s game can be viewed here: