A solid performance by goalie Tyler Bunz and a late goal by defenseman Teigan Zahn allowed the Stockton Thunder to salvage a point before ultimately falling in a shootout on Saturday night (Feb. 9).
Bunz recorded 30 saves and Zahn delivered a clutch game-tying goal with barely more than six minutes left in regulation time to secure the point for the Thunder before the Alaska Aces escaped with a 3-2 shootout victory in front of a crowd of 4,689 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. The teams will meet again at the same location on Sunday.
Stockton’s Tony DeHart was the only player to score during the first three rounds of the shootout, but Alaska’s Garry Nunn and Tommy Mele beat Bunz in the final two rounds and Aces goalie Gerald Coleman stopped Eric Hunter and Gabriel Levesque to prevent the Thunder from stealing a win.
Still, the point was a big one for Stockton, which played with a lineup that has been severely depleted recently. Earlier in the week, Yannick Riendeau left the Thunder to play in Switzerland and Harrison Reed was loaned to the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League. The Thunder also played without Justin Maylan, who is considered day-to-day after suffering a lower-body injury during a 3-1 loss to the Aces on Friday. Those three entered the week as Stockton’s top three point-producers for the season. Previously, the Thunder lost high-scoring forwards Toni Rajala and Philippe Cornet to the AHL when the National Hockey League lockout ended last month. Combined, those players have produced 188 points for the Thunder this season.
“I’m super proud of our effort,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said after the game. “We don’t have a ton of offense in our lineup right now, and we showed a lot of character by taking over after we got behind. We’re not looking for moral victories, but that was a well-earned point.”
Stockton, which was outshot 33-18 during the game, trailed 2-1 before Zahn scored off assists from DeHart and Garet Hunt to force the game to overtime. Maxime Boisclair accounted for Stockton’s other goal, and Alaska got regulation-time goals from Bobby Hughes and Spencer Bennett.
The Thunder (24-19-9) went slightly more than seven minutes without a shot on goal at the outset of the game and managed only four in the first period, which ended scoreless. The Aces recorded nine shots in the opening period, but were unable to get anything past Bunz.
Boisclair broke the tie just 33 seconds into the second period, when he scored off assists from Mike Little and Gabriel Levesque to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead. The goal was Boisclair’s fifth of the season and marked his ninth point in nine games since being signed by Stockton on Jan. 24.
Stockton’s lead evaporated almost exactly six minutes after Boisclair’s goal as Hughes answered with his eighth goal of the season off assists from Chris Clackson and Jordan Kremyr to create a 1-1 draw that lasted through the second intermission.
The Aces (34-11-5) took a 2-1 lead when Bennett netted his first goal of the season off an assist from B.J. Crum not quite nine minutes into the third period, but Zahn scored on a power play just short of five minutes later.
After playing at Alaska again on Sunday, the Thunder will be idle until facing the Ontario Reign on Feb. 15 at Stockton Arena.
The box score from Saturday’s game can be viewed here: