The Stockton Thunder, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s New York Islanders and the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, posted a 5-4 victory over the Bakersfield Condors in its first road game of the season.
The Thunder built a 5-2 lead after two periods of play, and was out-shooting the Condors 33-15, before Bakersfield rallied in the third period. The Condors received goals from Jordan Knackstedt on the powerplay and Michael Neal to cut the deficit to one with eight minutes to play, which set up a frantic finish. The Stockton defense held up and killed off a late penalty to preserve the victory.
“They had nothing until that powerplay goal gave them some life,” Head Coach Rich Kromm said. “They’re a good team, they’ve got lots of skill and it’s never easy holding a lead in someone else’s building. We showed a lot of heart to hang on for the win.”
The Thunder got off to a poor start when Condors’ forward Gary Steffes tipped home a shot from the point by Blake Kessel to give Bakersfield a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the game. It was the Condors first lead of the season, but it only lasted for six minutes. Thunder forward Ryan Hayes took a feed from Andrew Clark in the slot, and after his initial shot was blocked, he buried the rebound chance to tie the game at 1-1.
Later in the period, the Thunder struck again as Matt Bergland fed Ben Rosen for a breakaway. The rookie out of Boston University kept his nerve and deked to a forehand shot for the first goal of his professional career.
“It definitely felt good,” Rosen said. “It was a great pass from Bergie, and I got in all alone. The goalie gave me low blocker side and I buried it.”
However, the Condors once again started a period with a fast goal as the Thunder failed to capitalize on an extra-man opportunity to start the frame. Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer exited the box and was hit in stride for a breakaway that he converted to tie the game at 2-2 just 1:21 into the period.
The Thunder continued to create offensive chances but were kept at bay until the final five minutes of the second period. Defenseman Shawn Boutin scored his first career regular-season ECHL goal with a shot from the point that appeared to deflect in off a Bakersfield defenseman.
“It was a nice dish from Ryan Hayes,” Boutin said. “To get the right shot, in the right spot at the right time, felt great, but I’m just happy we won that game.”
Just over two minutes later it was Bergland’s time to get on the scoresheet as the Thunder converted a 5-on-3 powerplay with the Thunder’s reigning “rookie of the year” tapping home from close range off a feed from Clark.
Stockton ended the period on a high note when Boutin added his second goal of the night with 27.6 seconds left, beating Bakersfield netminder Tyler Bunz with a powerful drive to the high blocker side. The goal effectively ended Bunz’s night as the former Thunder goalie was pulled before the start of the third period in favor of Paul Karpowich. The relief netminder held the Thunder offense scoreless the rest of the way to set-up the dramatic finish to the game.
Overall, four Thunder players had multi-point games with Hayes and Rosen registering a goal and an assist each while Boutin posted two points on two goals and Bergland led the charge with a three point effort off a goal and two helpers.
The Thunder gets a short rest before returning to the ice at home for a two-game set with the Utah Grizzlies on November 1st and 2nd. The weekend is the Thunder’s 8th annual “Thunder Goes Pink” event with the team playing on pink ice and wearing pink jerseys, which will be auctioned off after Saturday’s game. A portion of the proceeds from the event, which also includes a silent auction, will go to benefit the St. Joseph’s Foundation – Breast Health Services. Special “pink” ticket packages are available through the Thunder front office and online at StocktonThunder.com.