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Penalties Trip Up Thunder on Painted Ice
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Penalties Trip Up Thunder on Painted Ice

The Thunder’s comeback bid on the painted ice fell short as they lost to the San Francisco Bulls by a final score of 4-2 at Stockton Arena. It was the first time in history a professional game was played on a fan painted ice surface.

“It didn’t seem to affect the players,” said Head Coach Rich Kromm. “Both goalies seemed to be fine and that was our biggest worry, was how it would affect the goaltenders. Overall they all seemed to handle it pretty well.”

The Thunder surrendered 3 powerplay goals, one in the first period and two in the third period as San Francisco would add an empty-netter to sour the 100th career ECHL start of Thunder goaltender Brian Foster. Foster ended the night stopping 21 of the 24 shots he faced.

The turning point of the night transpired only 4:03 into the third period when Stockton got whistled for too many men in the ice. Only 27 seconds into that power play, Captain Garet Hunt picked up a slashing penalty to put the Bulls on the two-man-advantage. To add the Thunder torment, defenseman Nathan Deck made it three Stockton players in the box as he was also called for a slash just 45 seconds later.

On the resulting, extended powerplay, San Francisco scored twice, both coming from defenseman Eriks Sevcenko. Sevcenko, playing in his first game as a Bull, initially tallied on the too many men penalty, allowing the Bulls to still have the two-man-advantage for another minute. The Thunder would kill off Hunt’s penalty but Sevcenko again beat Foster to give the Bulls the 3-1 lead.

“He called the slash on Garet to cause the first five-on-three,” said Kromm. “He then called the [Deck] one the same thing. Originally it was just the two-man-advantage and it was five-on-four and we could handle that, but it didn’t stay that way.

Stockton overall was whistled for 7 penalties on the night, including four in the third period alone.

“We have to be a little bit smarter with penalties,” said defenseman Mike Dalhuisen. “We lost it on the penalty kill with some dumb penalties with the slashes. They were frustration penalties and you never like to see those.”

Defenseman Landon Oslanski started the comeback for the Thunder when he sliced the lead in half with 5:56 left in the third period. After center Joey Martin won the faceoff cleanly, Oslanski scorched the slapshot past Beskorowany.

The Thunder seemingly took all the momentum away from the Bulls at that point in time, however, with Foster out for the extra attacker, San Francisco was able to hop on a loose puck, and Dean Ouellet fed Tyler Gron for the empty netter, his second of the game, to seal the Bulls victory.

It was Gron who got the scoring started in the first as he capitalized on a powerplay goal with Thunder defenseman Sean Escobedo in the box. Foster made a brilliant pad save on the initial shot; however Gron stuck with it and was able to slip the second opportunity past the Thunder netminder.

Later in the first period Thunder forward Matt Bergland tied the game at one as he blasted a slapshot past Beskorowany. A beautiful play from Lee Baldwin created space for Bergland as he faked the give to the defenseman who was pinching in, cut toward the net, and rifled a shot that beat the San Francisco netminder.

While the Thunder fell in what has been dubbed as the “Painted Classic”, the event turned out to be a great success. Back on December 29th, 845 participants painted the ice in preparation for tonight’s game against the Bulls. The ice surface garnered attention from CBS Sports, NHL on NBC, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, and even ESPN. While fans were concerned that the ice surface would cause the players distractions, it turned out to be a close game, and according to Dalhuisen, the ice was truly a non-factor.

“Honestly I didn’t even notice it out there,” explained the Thunder defenseman. “The first few practices it was a bit different but for us we got used to it and when the adrenaline starts going, you just forget about it.”

Both teams are back at it tomorrow when they finish their five-game set against one another as the Thunder head to San Francisco for a 7:30 start. As it stands now, the Thunder are currently eight points ahead of their Pacific division rivals for the second spot in the division.

Stockton’s next home game is January 18, when we celebrate Teddy Bear Toss Night. Fans are encouraged to bring stuffed animals to the game and when the Thunder score their first goal, the animals get tossed onto the ice, and eventually donated to The United Way.
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