The Stockton Thunder went to Colorado this week with aspirations of solidifying the team’s top-four position in the ECHL’s Western Conference.
So far, it hasn’t worked out that way.
The Colorado Eagles pulled to within four points of fourth-place Stockton in the conference standings on Friday night (Jan. 11) by skating to a 4-1 victory over the Thunder before the usual sellout crowd of 5,289 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO.
The victory was Colorado’s second in a row over the Thunder, and the teams will tangle again on Saturday at the same location.
“We’ve got to be better,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said by telephone after Friday’s defeat. “We played pretty hard, but at the end of the day, discipline has hurt us the last two games.”
In Friday’s game, the Thunder (19-13-7) faced six short-handed situations and yielded a pair of extra-man goals to the ECHL’s best power-play team. Colorado’s first power-play goal was a game-changer as Jason Beatty snapped a 1-1 tie with just 23.6 seconds left in the second period, when he scored off an assist from Michael Forney four seconds into a double-minor penalty against Stockton’s Yannick Riendeau for high sticking.
Steve Haddon netted the other power-play goal for the Eagles when he scored off assists from Joey Sides and Teegan Moore with exactly nine minutes remaining in the third period. Haddon’s goal came about four and a half minutes after Kevin Ulanski had given the Eagles a 3-1 lead by scoring off assists from Trent Daavettila and Jake Marto.
A.J. Hau was Colorado’s other goal-scorer. Hau tallied the game’s first goal when he scored not quite four and a half minutes into the first period. Moore and Haddon had assists on Hau’s goal.
Riendeau allowed the Thunder to get to the first intermission in a 1-1 tie by capitalizing on a turnover to score an unassisted goal with 2:55 left in the first period. The game remained tied until Beatty scored his power-play goal immediately after Riendeau was hit with the high-sticking penalty.
The Eagles (19-16-3) enjoyed a 30-23 advantage in shots during the game, and Colorado goalie Adam Brown made 22 saves in earning the victory. Thunder goalie Cody Reichard was credited with 26 saves in defeat.
Before the game, the Thunder signed free-agent forward Matt Ambroz, who joined the team in time to be in the lineup. Ambroz, 25, joins the Thunder after playing in 49 career ECHL games with the Alaska Aces. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound winger collected 10 points and 88 penalty minutes in those games and was on Alaska’s roster when the Aces won the Kelly Cup during the 2010-’11 season. Before becoming a pro, Ambroz recorded 89 points and 248 penalty minutes in 154 career games at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
“He’s a big guy who brings toughness and a history of scoring some goals,” Thomas said. “We think he can help us.”
After facing the Eagles again on Saturday, the Thunder will be idle until returning to home ice for a Jan. 18 game against the San Francisco Bulls at Stockton Arena.
The box score from Friday’s game can be viewed here: