A loose defensive effort and a rough night for goalie Tyler Bunz contributed to the worst home-ice loss of the season for the Stockton Thunder on Wednesday night (Mar. 13).
After grabbing an early lead, the Thunder yielded six consecutive goals on the way to being drubbed 7-2 by the San Francisco Bulls in front of 3,201 spectators at Stockton Arena.
The five-goal margin of defeat was the biggest in a home game for the Thunder this season, and Bunz was charged with six of the San Francisco goals before being replaced by back-up goalie Matt Cooper about halfway through the game.
“We just didn’t defend well,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “Sometimes you have these games. We haven’t had many of them. Unfortunately for us, some of the ones we have had have been at home and that’s never a good thing.”
Ryan Hayes scored off assists from Shawn Weller and Shawn Boutin to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead slightly less than six minutes after the opening faceoff, but the Bulls reeled off the next six goals to turn the game into a blowout.
“They’re a dangerous team offensively, and if you let them be offensive, they’ll make you pay,” Thomas said. “We really let them be offensive, and it’s too bad because we left our goalie hanging out to dry, we left our teammates in (certain) situations on the ice hanging out to dry and we weren’t a very good team. There’s no time to dwell on it. It’s important for us to just forget about it as quickly as we can and move on."
Less than 10 minutes after Hayes gave the Thunder (32-25-9) the early lead, Kory Falite and Nick Walsh scored goals within 42 seconds of one another to put the Bulls ahead for good. Peter Sivak added a goal for the Bulls with 3:40 left in the first period to allow San Francisco (23-34-7) to take a 3-1 advantage into the first intermission.
Tommy Grant, Bryan Cameron and Tristan King all scored for the Bulls within the first eight minutes of the second period to leave the Thunder facing a 6-1 deficit before Gabriel Levesque netted his ninth goal of the season off assists from Mike Little and Maxime Boisclair to make the score 6-2 at the second break.
“We didn’t have it,” Thomas said. “It’s a pretty simple breakdown: We didn’t play very well, they’re a very skilled team, we let them be as skilled as they wanted to be and they made us pay.”
Sivak tallied the only goal of the third period to account for San Francisco’s final margin of victory.
“We just had a lot of let downs,” Hayes said. “They got a lot of second chances down low. That’s the thing we’ve got to stop.”
Among the few positives for the Thunder was the play of Cooper, who made his professional debut in a mop-up role. Cooper was signed recently by the Thunder after completing his collegiate career at Johnson and Wales University, where he had a career record of 39-37-5 with a 3.32 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
“I really liked him,” Thomas said of Cooper. “He played well. It was good to see something positive come out of (the game).”
Cooper faced 11 shots after entering the game and stopped 10 of them.
“The nerves were going pretty bad at first,” Cooper said. “It was a bad situation. You never want that to happen to another goalie, but it was a good opportunity. It was a good way to get in there and get my feel for it.”
Before leaving, Bunz was credited with 15 saves. San Francisco goalie Taylor Nelson made 38 saves as the Thunder outshot the Bulls 40-32 for the game.
Prior to the game, the Thunder announced the signing of center Matthew Lyall, who recently completed his collegiate career at the University of Guelph in Canada. The Thunder is expected to announce as early as Thursday the addition of defenseman Nikhola Grenier-Pokulok, who recently wrapped up his collegiate career at Clarkson University in New York.
The Thunder will be back in action on Friday, when the team visits the Ontario Reign. Those two teams will square off again on Saturday at Stockton Arena, and the Bakersfield Condors will visit Stockton on Sunday.
Ontario's Derek Couture won't play in either of his team's upcoming games against the Thunder because he will be serving a two-game suspension resulting from a match penalty he received for deliberately attempting to injure Stockton's Colten Hayes in a game last weekend.
The box score from Wednesday night’s game can be viewed here: