So far, home ice has been a significant key to victory in hockey games between the Stockton Thunder and San Francisco Bulls.
Such was the case again on Friday night (Jan. 18), when a trio of Stockton players contributed three points each as the Thunder cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Bulls in front of a crowd of 5,617 at Stockton Arena.
The game marked the first visit to Stockton for the Bulls, who have won all three games played between the teams at the Cow Palace in Daly City. The Thunder did beat the Bulls in a battle staged at HP Pavilion in San Jose in December, but Stockton will be seeking to win at the Cow Palace for the first time when the teams meet there in a rematch on Saturday night. The clubs will square off in Stockton again on Sunday.
“I think the guys were excited for sure to get them here,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “We obviously haven’t had a lot of success against them at the Cow Palace, so it was important for us to feel good that this is a place where we could beat them.”
Yannick Riendeau had two goals and an assist, and Eric Hunter and Matt Reber each chipped in a goal and two assists to pace the Thunder (21-13-7). Matt Ambroz scored Stockton’s other goal, and Gabriel Levesque contributed two assists.
Peter Sivak logged a goal and an assist for the Bulls (13-20-5), and Dean Ouellet scored the team’s other goal. Rylan Galiardi had an assist on each of the San Francisco goals.
Riendeau got the Thunder rolling quickly by scoring his two goals within a span of 23 seconds before three minutes had expired in the first period. The goals came on Stockton’s first two shots of the game.
“It’s always fun to get into the game in the first shift or second shift and get good momentum for the rest of the game,” Riendeau said. “It’s always good to start that way.”
Reber and Hunter had assists on Riendeau’s first goal, which came slightly more than two minutes after the opening faceoff. San Francisco’s Jonathan Lessard was hit with an elbowing penalty 17 seconds after the goal, and Riendeau struck again for a power-play goal just six seconds into Lessard’s penalty. Hunter and Mike Little were credited with assists on Riendeau’s second goal, which was his 13th of the season.
Sivak trimmed Stockton’s lead to 2-1 when he scored a power-play goal for the Bulls not quite eight minutes into the first period, but Hunter netted his 14 goal of the season off assists from Riendeau and Reber at 18:22 to allow the Thunder to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
“Our third goal in the first period was a big one,” Thomas said. “At the end of a period, to score a goal like that ends up making it a little bit of a different game the whole way through.”
Ambroz scored his first goal of the season off assists from Levesque and Cameron Brodie barely more than a minute into the second period to extend Stockton’s advantage to 4-1. The goal by Ambroz prompted the Bulls to pull starting goalie Taylor Nelson, who was replaced by Bryan Hince.
Ouellet delivered another power-play goal for the Bulls not quite 11 minutes into the second period to leave the Thunder holding a 4-2 lead at the second break. Reber capped the scoring by tallying his seventh goal of the season off an assist from Levesque slightly more than six and a half minutes into the third period.
Thunder goalie Cody Reichard recorded 25 saves in earning the victory. Nelson, who was charged with the defeat, was credited with nine saves on 13 shots before being replaced by Hince, who faced 20 shots and made 19 saves.
Before facing the Bulls, the Thunder signed local goalie Hayden Logan as an emergency backup to Reichard because Jody O’Neill, who was signed by the Thunder on Thursday, was unable to get to Stockton in time for the game due to flight delays. The Thunder needed to add a goalie to the roster after Tyler Bunz was promoted to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League earlier in the week.
The Thunder also placed defenseman Teigan Zahn on the 21-day injured reserve list prior to Friday’s game.
Following Saturday’s visit to the Cow Palace, the Thunder will play seven consecutive games at home, where the team is 12-4-2.
The box score from Friday’s game can be viewed here: