An offense that came out of hibernation and a flawless performance by goalie Olivier Roy generated a lopsided victory for the Stockton Thunder on Saturday night (Feb. 16).
The Thunder scored more than three goals for the first time in eight games and just the second time in the team’s past 14 outings, and Roy stopped all 34 shots he faced as the club cruised to a 4-0 victory over the San Francisco Bulls before a crowd of 7,526 at Stockton Arena.
Gabriel Levesque delivered two goals and Eric Hunter and Matt Bergland added one each to lead the Thunder and provide a comfortable cushion for Roy, who posted his fifth career ECHL shutout. Matt Reber chipped in with a pair of assists for Stockton, which has won two consecutive games heading into a rematch with the Bulls on Sunday afternoon at the Cow Palace in Daly City.
“It was important for us to get a game where the offense really clicked because it had struggled as of late,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “This was a big night for us, and hopefully it continues.”
Levesque got things rolling for the Thunder (26-20-9) by scoring off assists from Reber and Shawn Boutin barely more than five and a half minutes after the opening faceoff. Hunter added his goal just 42 seconds later, when he scored off assists from Ryan Constant and Ryan Green to stake the Thunder to a 2-0 lead that would last through the first intermission.
Bergland extended Stockton’s lead to 3-0 with a goal slightly more than a minute into the second period. Reber and Garet Hunt were credited with assists on Bergland’s goal.
Levesque struck for a power-play goal off assists from Teigan Zahn and Maxime Boisclair not quite three minutes into the second period to make the score 4-0. Levesque’s two goals gave him seven for the season and extended a personal point-scoring streak to six games.
“I feel really good right now,” Levesque said. “We’re in a good stretch. Right now, I’m getting the ice time and I’m really confident in my play.”
Levesque was deprived of an opportunity to complete a hat trick when he was caught up in a multi-player fracas not quite halfway through the third period. The incident resulted in 132 penalty minutes between the teams and the ejection of eight players, including Levesque.
Following Levesque’s second goal, the Bulls (19-26-7) pulled goalie Taylor Nelson and replaced him with Thomas Heemskerk. Nelson was credited with 19 saves before leaving, and Heemskerk made 22 saves without allowing a goal the rest of the way.
The four goals scored by the Thunder were more than enough for Roy to earn his second victory in as many starts since being assigned to Stockton from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League earlier in the week. Roy dealt the Ontario Reign a 2-1 overtime defeat on Friday.
“We played well defensively,” said Roy, who recorded four shutouts with Stockton last season. “The guys made it easier. If I gave any second chance, they were going to take it away.”
After facing the Bulls again on Sunday to begin a four-game road trip, the Thunder will travel to Southern California for a game against Ontario on Wednesday (Feb. 20).
The box score from Saturday’s game can be viewed here: