“Rough & Ready Islanders” Lose Game One 4-2 to Aces
The Thunder, playing their first of two games as the "Rough & Ready Islanders" opened their five-game series on the road against the Aces with a 4-2 loss.
The Stockton Thunder (22-17-0-5), playing as the Rough & Ready Islanders, fell in game one of their five game set against the Alaska Aces (28-11-2-1), 4-2 at Sullivan Arena on Friday night. Both teams wore jerseys honoring their NHL affiliates with the Thunder using uniforms similar to the New York Islanders and the Aces wearing jerseys like the Calgary Flames.
It was the Thunder’s first visit to Anchorage since eliminating the Aces from the playoffs in game six of their Western Conference semi-final series last season. A raucous crowd was on hand to enjoy the game and celebrate the ECHL’s Hockey Heritage weekend that saw former Alaska Aces forward Wes Goldie inducted into the Hall of Fame as well as a visit from the Stanley Cup.
The Thunder opened the scoring in the first period at the 7:16 mark of the frame. J.P. Burkemper found a rebound at the top of the crease, after Alaska goalie Gerald Coleman stopped a shot from the point. It was Burkemper’s third goal in his last six games after the rookie from St. Louis, MO posted just two goals in his first 18 pro contests.
However, the Thunder’s lead only lasted for 23 seconds before the Aces tied things up. After the restart, Alaska’s Nick Mazzolini worked the puck into the zone, beating one Stockton defenseman and avoided the sliding poke check of another. The Anchorage, AK native fired a shot towards the top of the crease, which deflected into the back of the net off of forward Brendan Connolly.
The goal was Connolly’s 11th of the season, but it didn’t take him long to get number 12. Late in the first period, Connolly finished off an Aces power play by rifling home a slap shot from the top of the right wing circle, beating Thunder goaltender Brian Foster who was screened on the play. The goal came with 1:31 remaining in the opening frame.
The second period started with in frantic fashion with scoring chances at both ends. Foster made several fine saves and had a little bit of luck as well as one shot hit the post and bounced back under the goaltender’s glove. The luck could only last so long though, as Mazzolini took a pass in the slot from Connolly and ripped a shot into the top corner over Foster’s glove. The goal came early at the 6:44 mark, but that was the only score of the second period as the Aces went into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.
The third period began in much the same way with the Thunder creating chances, but not being able to find the back of the net. The closest chance came as the team crashed the net and deflected a puck past Coleman, but off the post and out. The Thunder finally got their second goal of the game midway through the period at the 9:38 mark. The team’s leader in points, Joey Martin bounced a shot into the net off the back of Coleman, as Martin flung a shot on target from behind the left wing corner.
The Thunder pressed for an equalizer, but the Aces forwards and defensemen combined for several key blocked shots, holding the Thunder to just six shots in the final frame. The Thunder’s chances took a blow as Mitch Bruijsten picked up a tripping penalty with 8:33 remaining, which kept them on the defensive for two minutes.
Late in the game, the Thunder struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, turning the puck over several times at neutral ice. The Thunder finally got the puck in deep with less than 30 second remaining, allowing them to pull goaltender Foster for the extra attacker. Garet Hunt whipped a shot at the net, which was blocked at the top of the crease. Coleman could not find the loose puck, but a shot was jammed wide and cleared. Peter Sivak picked up the puck for the Aces and was able to hit the empty net with 11 seconds remaining to finish off the game.
It was Sivak’s fourth point of the game as he also registered the secondary assist on all three of the Aces previous goals. Overall the Aces line of Mazzolini, Connolly and Sivak combined for 10 points total and all four Alaska tallies. Forward Mathew Sisca was the only other player to register a point for the Aces. Foster finished the game with 33 saves in the loss while Coleman picked up his fifth win of the season, making 20 saves.
The teams get right back to work tomorrow night as part of their three-game weekend set. Puck drops at 8:15 p.m. PST. The Thunder will once again be wearing their Rough & Ready Islanders jerseys, for the final time on the road, before wearing the uniforms at home on March 22, when the Aces visit Stockton Arena.
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