A couple of blown leads, including one in the last half minute of regulation time, and a penalty-box snafu in overtime spelled doom for the Stockton Thunder on Saturday night (Jan. 26).
After yielding a game-tying goal with just 29.8 seconds remaining in regulation, the Thunder gave up a power-play goal about two and a half minutes into overtime and suffered a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Utah Grizzlies in front of a crowd of 8,026 at Stockton Arena.
The game-winning goal, which was scored by Mark Isherwood, came after Stockton defensemen Mike Little (kneeing) and Kevin Noble (high-sticking) were called for penalties within the first minute of overtime. Although teams generally skate 4-on-4 during overtime in the ECHL, the Grizzlies were allowed by rule to put a fifth player on the ice after Noble’s infraction in order to properly create a two-man advantage.
The problem occurred when Little’s penalty expired and he inadvertently was held in the penalty box for about nine seconds before being released. Before Little was able to get into the play, Isherwood scored off assists from Colin Vock and Bryan Cameron to lift the Grizzlies to the victory.
The loss extended a winless streak to four games for the Thunder (21-16-8). The same teams will meet again Sunday at Stockton Arena.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “It’s a tough way to lose the game.”
Still, Thomas was somewhat philosophical about the incident.
“It’s one of those things,” he said. “When it’s not going great, you don’t get bounces, you don’t get calls (and) things just don’t go your way.”
Things appeared to be going Stockton’s way early as Harrison Reed scored a pair of power-play goals in the first period to leave the Thunder holding a 2-0 lead at the first intermission, but the Grizzlies (17-18-5) answered with goals by Mitch Wahl on a power play and Vock on a penalty shot in the second period to create a 2-2 tie.
“We let them take momentum from us,” Reed said. “We came out moving our feet really well with a lot of energy and we were able to score two goals, but we sat back a little bit and let them take the momentum from us.”
Justin Maylan gave the Thunder a 3-2 lead midway through the third period, but Wahl delivered the late tying goal after the Grizzlies pulled goalie Shane Owen for an extra skater.
“We didn’t do enough to win the hockey game, and that’s on us,” Thomas said. “We had our chance. We came out, we got the lead and we didn’t hold on to it. We need to get that job done.”
Maxime Boisclair and Ryan Constant were credited with assists on Reed’s first goal, which came slightly more than five minutes after the opening faceoff. Reed’s second goal, his 17th of the season, came about nine minutes later off an assist from Tony DeHart.
Wahl cut Stockton’s lead to 2-1 just 50 seconds into the second period, when he scored his power-play goal off assists from Cameron and Nick Tuzzolino while the Grizzlies were enjoying a two-man advantage.
Vock’s penalty-shot goal came with 5:21 remaining in the second period, and the score remained 2-2 through the second break.
The Thunder recaptured the lead when Maylan scored off an assist from Colten Hayes not quite 10 minutes into the third period, but that advantage evaporated when Wahl delivered his second goal of the game and 14th of the season off assists from Tuzzolino and Isherwood.
”We’ve got to dig even deeper,” Thomas said. “We didn’t dig deep enough for 60 minutes the way we should have. I’m not happy about that, but tomorrow is another day. We’ve got to go win that and not worry about what we didn’t get done.”
Owen recorded 27 saves in posting the victory, and Thunder goalie Cody Reichard was credited with 20 saves in defeat.
The game marked Stockton’s eighth annual Teddy Bear Toss, a charity event in which fans are invited to throw stuffed animals onto the ice after the first Thunder goal. The toys are donated to charity, and Reed’s first goal left the ice littered with thousands of them.
“It was pretty exciting,” Reed said. “It was neat to see the teddy bears fly over our heads as we scored.”
After Sunday’s game, the Thunder will return to action on Wednesday (Jan. 30), when the San Francisco Bulls visit Stockton Arena.
The box score from Saturday night’s game can be viewed here: