The Stockton Thunder had the Idaho Steelheads on the ropes, but failed to deliver a knockout punch on Friday night (Feb. 1).
Instead, the Thunder allowed a third-period lead to get away and suffered a 3-2 defeat in front of 5,120 stunned spectators at Stockton Arena.
The game-winning goal came with only 43 seconds left in regulation time. It happened after Thunder defenseman Kevin Noble caught an edge and fell down, taking out defense partner Tony DeHart in the process to set the stage for an unassisted goal by Idaho’s David Toews. The goal came almost exactly eight minutes after Jace Coyle had scored for the Steelheads to wipe out a 2-1 Stockton lead.
“It’s disappointing,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “It’s unacceptable, really. We played well enough and should have won the hockey game, but we didn’t do enough to score goals.”
The Thunder (23-17-8) did manage to fire 45 shots at Idaho goalie Josh Robinson, but never led by more than a single goal.
“I don’t know how many (shots) we had right around the cage, and we showed very little poise, very little patience and very little finish,” Thomas said. “That’s on the guys offensively. We’ve got to be way better than that. It’s a really bad two points to give away in our building.”
The Thunder enjoyed a 15-7 advantage in shots in the opening period and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a goal by Maxime Boisclair, who scored off assists from Harrison Reed and Tony DeHart with slightly more than three minutes remaining before the break.
Stockton followed by outshooting the Steelheads 16-8 in the second period, during which each team produced a goal. Idaho’s Tyler Gron created a 1-1 tie by scoring off an assist from Toews not quite 15 minutes into the period, but Reed answered barely more than three minutes later by netting his team-leading 19th goal of the season while Stockton was skating on a 5-on-3 power play. Boisclair and Ryan Constant were credited with assists on Reed’s goal, which allowed the Thunder to carry a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Constant’s assist was the 100th of his ECHL career.
The Thunder nursed the narrow lead through the first half of the third period, but then Coyle and Toews struck to lift the Steelheads (28-11-5) to the decision and make a winner of Robinson, who finished with 43 saves.
“It’s very disappointing considering our effort,” Reed said of the defeat. “I thought we played pretty well. Obviously, stopping that many shots is kudos to (Robinson), but I think we need to score on our opportunities more.”
Despite finishing with a 45-28 edge in shots, Stockton simply failed to bury the Steelheads.
“We just let them hang around,” Thomas said. “We didn’t put them away. We did enough early to make this a different type of game. We didn’t need to make it a one-goal game heading into the third period. You tip your hat to their goaltender and some of the guys who finished at the right time, but I’m pretty disappointed in our group right now. We’ve got guys who need to score goals and had plenty of opportunities and just didn’t do it.”
Stockton goalie Tyler Bunz made his first start with the Thunder since being re-assigned this week from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. Bunz recorded 25 saves.
“I thought he played really well,” Thomas said of Bunz. “I thought he played a real solid game. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the job done for him offensively. We just didn’t do enough as a group to win the hockey game. More importantly, we gave one away and that sucks.”
Before the game, the Thunder announced that goalie Jody O’Neill was traded to the Las Vegas Wranglers for future considerations to make room for Bunz on the roster.
The box score from Friday’s game can be viewed here: