The Stockton Thunder let a third-period lead get away and then couldn’t find a way to recover in the finale of a four-game road trip on Friday night (Feb. 22).
After coming from behind to take a 2-1 advantage into the second intermission, the Thunder hit the wall and watched the Ontario Reign rally for a 4-2 victory before a crowd of 7,793 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA.
The game capped a stretch of three games in three nights for Stockton, which played at Ontario on Wednesday and Bakersfield on Thursday before returning to Ontario. The Thunder and Reign will meet again on Sunday at Stockton Arena.
“The guys were tired,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said by telephone after the game. “We played hard in the third period, but we made some mistakes that killed us.”
Thomas said fatigue manifested itself in mental errors that cost the Thunder down the stretch.
“We have no excuse because there was no reason for us to give them some of the looks they got,” Thomas said. “We found a way to scratch and claw and take a lead, and then we blew it in the third period by not playing smart.”
The Thunder (28-22-9) faced a 1-0 deficit at the first intermission, but Mike Little and Colten Hayes scored goals 36 seconds apart just before the end of the second period to allow Stockton to take the 2-1 cushion into the second break.
Stockton’s lead evaporated not quite two minutes into the second period, when D.J. King scored his first goal of the season off an assist from C.J. Stretch to create a 2-2 tie. Derek Couture gave the Reign a 3-2 edge when he netted his second goal of the game and 20th of the season off an assist from Dan DaSilva with slightly less than four minutes left in regulation time, and Brodie Sheahan sealed the outcome by scoring an empty-net goal with 14.2 seconds remaining. Mario Lamoureux was credited with an assist on Sheahan’s goal, which was his 10th of the season.
Couture’s first goal was the only one scored by either team in the first period. It came during an Ontario power play, and assists went to DaSilva and Stretch.
Ontario (37-13-5) nursed the 1-0 lead until Little scored his sixth goal of the season off assists from Matt Bergland and Matt Ambroz with just 1:05 left in the second period. Hayes then netted his first goal of the season 36 seconds later off assists from Brandon Davidson and Shawn Weller.
The Reign enjoyed a 30-21 advantage in shots during the game and handed Thunder goalie Olivier Roy his first defeat in four starts since being assigned to Stockton last week. Reign goalie Sergey Kostenko made 19 saves in winning his Ontario debut, and Roy was credited with 26 saves.
The box score from Friday’s game can be viewed here: