Thunder, Milner Stymie Reign
The Thunder started their March campaign off strong with a hard fought, 3-1 win over the Ontario Reign Sunday afternoon at Stockton Arena, the first time they have beaten the Reign at home this season.
“I thought we started a bit slow and it took us a bit to get our legs under us but once we did I thought we played a pretty solid game,” said Head Coach Rich Kromm. “Parker Milner was great tonight when he had to be. He is really steady, solid, and in control and that showed tonight.”
Milner shined in goal as he collected his seventh win of the year, and third in-a-row, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced. Milner’s saves were spread out across the game, with nine coming in the first, 13 in the second and nine in the third. The lone goal Milner surrendered came on a late penalty kill when the Thunder had a 3-0 lead.
“At the beginning of the year I was frustrated about wins and losses,” said Milner. “I came from a place you don’t lose very often even if I didn’t play well. Taking those losses was tough but now just controlling what I can control helps.”
While Parker and the Thunder defense shut the door on the Reign, the Thunder offense capitalized on their chances, collecting three goals in the final two periods.
After both teams were held scoreless in the first period, the pair of new Thunder forwards connected on a shorthanded tally to give the Thunder the 1-0 advantage. On the penalty kill, forward Riley Wetmore scooped up the loose puck in his own zone and dashed out behind the Ontario defense along with Adam Brace. The two passed between one another with Wetmore finishing the shorthanded goal scored on Jussi Olkinuora.
“It started with just a puck battle on the wall, which I ended up chipping the puck by their defenseman,” said Wetmore. “I then saw Brace going to the net so I gave it to him early in case he wanted to shoot but he also had me going to the net. He gave it back to me late and I got lucky and it went in between the pad and the glove.”
Stockton then added two more goals in the third period, with Brace getting one of his own and forward James Henry notching his 14th of the season. Brace’s tally came first when he connected on a beautiful passing play. Michal Spacek kept the puck in at the blueline and despite having a good shooting lane, Spacek opted to dish it off to the left circle where Ryan Hayes was camped out.
Hayes, playing in his first game after missing 39 contests with an upper body injury, one touched the pass to Brace at the hashmarks with the former Robert Morris College grad one-timing the puck past Olkinuora. Brace’s tally ended up being the game winner for the Thunder.
“It felt great, I’ve been waiting for this since my surgery and we got a win so it was a successful night,” said Hayes. “It’s never fun coming back for your first game and losing so you have to put your body out there to get the win.”
With the win, the Thunder will now travel down to Bakersfield for a showdown with their Pacific Division rivals on Tuesday, with puck drop set for 7 p.m. Following that game, the Thunder are back home for a four-game homestretch beginning on Saturday, March 8.
The first 1,500 adults and teens 13 and up in the building on the 8th will receive a Thunder adult jersey. It’s also Relay for Life Night where the team will support Cancer survivors and Relay for Life teams who raised money for the American Cancer Society.
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