The Stockton Thunder turned the tables on San Francisco Bulls goalie Taylor Nelson just in the nick of time on Wednesday night (Jan. 30).
After watching Nelson make 42 saves during regulation and overtime, the Thunder burned him three times in four attempts to claim a 4-3 shootout victory over the Bulls in front an enthusiastic crowd of 6,497 at Stockton Arena.
Yannick Riendeau, Maxime Boisclair amd Harrison Reed all put shots past Nelson during the shootout, and Thunder goalie Cody Reichard stopped three consecutive San Francisco shooters as the Thunder emerged victorious in a shootout for the first time in four tries this season. Before Wednesday, Stockton, which trailed by a goal entering the third period, had won only one of nine games that had gone past regulation time and hadn’t won at all when trailing after two periods.
“We needed to win one of those,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “We really did. It’s a good feeling. It was important for us to get that because the games are going to get tighter. There’s going to be more of those games down the stretch, so it was good for us to get a little bit of confidence.”
The Thunder (23-16-8) got off to a quick start, taking a 1-0 lead when Gabriel Levesque scored his fifth goal of the season just 30 seconds into the game. The Bulls (17-21-6) answered with just 19 seconds left in the first period, when former Thunder defenseman Rob Kwiet netted a power-play goal while the Bulls were enjoying a two-man advantage. Cody Carlson and Peter Sivak had assists on the goal, which was Kwiet’s eighth of the season and sent the teams into the first intermission locked in a 1-1 tie.
The Thunder recaptured the lead when Tony DeHart scored a power-play goal off assists from Reed and Matt Reber slightly more than four minutes into the second period. The goal was DeHart’s third of the season and ended a personal scoring drought of 38 games.
Dean Ouellet and Christian Ouellet scored goals 17 seconds apart for the Bulls not quite halfway through the second period, and the Thunder faced a 3-2 deficit at the second break.
Ryan Constant scored his fifth goal of the season off assists from Boisclair and Reber barely more than two minutes into the third period to create a 3-3 tie and set up overtime, during which neither team scored even though each was presented with a power-play chance.
“What a great play by Boisclair to find Constant, and Connie made a real good read jumping down on that play,” Thomas said of the game-tying goal. “It would have been nice to (win) in regulation, but beggars can’t be choosers. We were begging for that type of win. We needed a come-from-behind win.”
While Nelson was busy making his 42 saves, Reichard was credited with 23 in earning the victory.
“All the guys played hard for me all night,” Reichard said. “I was fortunate to make some saves (in the shootout), and we got the win.”
Following the game, Thomas announced that goalie Tyler Bunz has been re-assigned to Stockton from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. Earlier, the Thunder announced that Reed was a runner-up for the ECHL Player of the Week award for the week ending Jan. 27. Reed posted six points (four goals, two assists) in three games during the week. Tyler McNeely of the South Carolina Stingrays won the award after recording 10 points in three games during the same time period.
The Thunder will be back in action on Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 1-2), when the Idaho Steelheads visit Stockton Arena.
The box score from Friday’s game can viewed here: