After making a couple of moves to bolster his team’s roster on Wednesday (Jan. 9), Stockton Thunder Coach Matt Thomas found himself back at the drawing board by day’s end because both players he obtained were injured in their season debuts with the club.
The Thunder started the day by obtaining defenseman Colten Hayes from the South Carolina Stingrays in exchange for forward Phil Mangan, then signed free-agent forward Ryan Green before taking the ice to face the Colorado Eagles. Both players joined the team in time to be included in the lineup for the game, but each ended up sidelined as the Eagles hammered out an 8-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 5,289 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO.
Hayes, who spent much of last season with the Thunder before being included in a trade with the Reading (PA) Royals, was injured when he took a blow to the head, and Green suffered a groin strain during the game. Thomas said neither is expected to be available when the two teams meet again Friday and Saturday at the same location.
“It was a tough night,” Thomas said by telephone after the game. “There isn’t much else to say.”
Michael Forney had a hat trick for the Eagles, who also got goals from A.J. Hau, Devin DiDiomete, Collin Bowman, Aaron Schneekloth and Teegan Moore. Stockton’s goals were scored by Green, Justin Maylan and Matt Reber.
“I don’t think it was far off from our worst game of the year,” Thomas said. “We didn’t compete hard, and we just kept giving up opportunities.”
Colorado (18-16-3) jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Hau scored off assists from Steve Haddon and Isaac Smeltzer slightly more than nine minutes into the first period. The goal was the first of the season for Hau, who was making his season debut with the Eagles.
Hau’s goal was the only one scored by either team during the opening period, in which the Eagles enjoyed a 12-8 advantage in shots.
Colorado again outshot the Thunder 12-8 in the second period and opened up a 4-1 lead by the second intermission.
The Eagles led 2-0 after Forney scored off an assist from DiDiomete not quite six minutes into the second period, but the Thunder (19-12-7) climbed back into the game when Green, who spent training camp with Stockton before being released, scored about five minutes later. Matt Bergland and Shawn Boutin had assists on Green’s goal, which was the first of his ECHL career and came just six seconds after a cross-checking penalty to Colorado’s Jason Beatty expired.
Colorado responded to Green’s goal when DiDiomete scored on a power-play off assists from Schneekloth and Kevin Ulanski at 14:49 of the second period to give the Eagles a 3-1 cushion. The Eagles added another power-play goal barely more than a minute later, when Bowman scored off assists from DiDiomete and Trent Daavettila. Both goals came while Stockton’s Gabriel Levesque was in the penalty box to serve consecutive penalties for interference and cross checking.
The gap grew to 5-1 at 2:47 of the third period, when Schneekloth scored. Daavettila and Ulanski were credited with assists on Schneekloth’s goal. Moore scored on a rebound about a minute and a half later to stretch Colorado’s lead to 6-1. Hau and Eagles goalie Adam Brown had assists on Moore’s goal.
A 5-on-3 goal by Maylan made the score 6-2 at 7:34 of the third period. Cameron Abney and Eric Hunter had assists on Maylan’s goal, which was his 15th of the season. Reber added another 5-on-3 goal off assists from Yannick Riendeau and Tony DeHart just 1:03 later to cut Stockton’s deficit to 6-3. The goal was Reber’s sixth of the season.
Forney pushed Colorado’s advantage to 7-3 with a power-play goal off assists from Haddon and Bowman with 1:50 remaining in the game, and Forney completed his hat trick by scoring again with 28 seconds left to complete the rout. Haddon and Joey Sides had assists on Forney’s final goal, which was his 20th of the season.
Colorado finished with a 36-25 edge in shots. Brown was credited with 22 saves in earning the victory, and Thunder goalie Tyler Bunz made 28 saves.
After playing in Colorado on Friday and Saturday, the Thunder will return home to meet the San Francisco Bulls on Jan. 18 at Stockton Arena.
The box score from Wednesday’s game can be viewed here: