The Stockton Thunder couldn’t overcome the damage done by a couple of National Hockey League players on Friday night (Jan. 4).
A pair of goals by Joey Crabb and another by Scott Gomez – players with a combined 1,046 games of NHL experience – were all the Alaska Aces needed to pin a 3-1 defeat on the Thunder in front of 4,207 spectators at Stockton Arena.
Crabb, Gomez and Brandon Dubinsky, who had the primary assist on the goal by Gomez, likely all would be on NHL rosters if not for the current lockout situation at that level of competition. Nate Thompson, another NHL veteran, also is on the Alaska roster but currently is on the injured reserve list and did not play in Friday’s game.
“Two NHL guys scored all their goals,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas quipped as he analyzed the game afterward. “Those guys are good players, but we didn’t score.”
Stockton’s lone goal came during a 4-on-3 manpower advantage during the third period, when Ryan Martindale scored after the Thunder (18-11-7) had fallen into a 2-0 hole. Martindale’s goal was the only mark against Alaska goalie Gerald Coleman, who made 37 saves in earning the victory.
“I thought we worked hard, but we needed to work harder right at the net,” said Thomas, whose team had a 38-21 edge in shots and enjoyed a territorial advantage for much of the game. “You’ve got to score 5-on-5 (goals) to win hockey games, and we didn’t do it.”
Crabb, who belongs to the NHL’s Washington Capitals, took advantage of a mistake by Thunder goalie Cody Reichard to give the ECHL-leading Aces (27-8-0) a 1-0 lead with slightly more than two minutes left before the first intermission. In attempting to pass the puck to a teammate, Reichard instead put it on the stick of Crabb, who turned the miscue into an unassisted goal.
“It was a bad turnover,” Thomas said. “He (Reichard) made a blind pass. Our guy was there, but he didn’t take a look at where their guy was. It was a good read by their guy, but it was a bad pass.”
Neither team scored in the second period, but Gomez, who belongs to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, stretched Alaska’s lead to 2-0 when he scored off assists from Dubinsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Alexandre Imbeault at 4:37 of the third period. Martindale’s goal came with 8:03 remaining and gave the Thunder life, but Crabb sealed the outcome by scoring an empty-net goal off an assist from Bobby Hughes with 9.2 seconds left.
“We created a lot of opportunities and we almost mounted a comeback,” Martindale said. “We had a couple of really prime scoring chances, and it was just unfortunate they didn’t go in.”
Martindale also gave credit to Coleman, who faced 20 Stockton shots in the third period, when the Thunder pressed to get back into the game.
“You always have to give credit to the goalie,” Martindale said. “We were throwing everything we had at him, (but) he stood on his head and really kept his team in there.”
Thunder forward Matt Reber was activated from the 21-day injured reserve list and played in Friday's game. Forward Jesse Fratkin was placed on the 21-day IR retroactively to Jan. 1 to make room for Reber. Fratkin hasn’t played since taking a blow to the head during a game at Bakersfield on Dec. 28.
The Thunder will be back in action Saturday night when the Colorado Eagles visit Stockton Arena.
The box score from Friday’s game can be viewed here: