THUNDER ADVANCE TO SECOND ROUND
April 22, 2009 - The Springfield Falcons ECHL affiliate, the Stockton Thunder, advanced to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night beating the Ontario Reign in game 7.
By: Mike Benton
STOCKTON 5 - ONTARIO 4
Thunder eliminate the Pacific Division champs in 7, advance to 2nd round
ONTARIO, Calif. - Goaltender Parker Van Buskirk made 27 saves and Cory Urquhart scored three points (1g-2a) to help the Stockton Thunder eliminate the Pacific Division champion Ontario Reign in a 5-4 victory in Game 7 of the Pacific Division Semifinal of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 3,466 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Wednesday.
The Thunder won the series, 4-3, who were victorious in their first ever Game 7 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in team history. The Thunder, who is the #4 seed in the Pacific Division, will face the #2 seed Las Vegas Wranglers in the second round of the playoffs, opening a best-of-seven series (1-1-2-3 format) with Game 1 of the Pacific Division Final round on Friday, Apr. 24 at 7:30 p.m. from Stockton Arena.
STOCKTON VS. ONTARIO - PACIFIC DIVISION SEMIFINALS
Game 1: Stockton 3 at Ontario 4
Game 2: Stockton 6 at Ontario 5
Game 3: Ontario 5 at Stockton 1
Game 4: Ontario 4 at Stockton 5 (OT)
Game 5: Ontario 2 at Stockton 4
Game 6: Stockton 3 at Ontario 4
Game 7: Stockton 5 at Ontario 4
The complete second round schedule is listed below:
STOCKTON VS. LAS VEGAS - PACIFIC DIVISION FINALS
Game 1: Las Vegas at Stockton - Friday, April 24 - 7:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 2: Stockton at Las Vegas - Monday, April 27 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena)
Game 3: Las Vegas at Stockton - Thursday, April 30 - 7:00 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 4: Las Vegas at Stockton - Saturday, May 2 - 7:30 p.m. (Stockton Arena)
Game 5: Stockton at Las Vegas - Monday, May 4 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena) *
Game 6: Stockton at Las Vegas - Tuesday, May 5 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena) *
Game 7: Stockton at Las Vegas - Wednesday, May 6 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena)*
* If necessary
The Thunder received goal-scoring support from Robbie Bina, Cory Urquhart, Igor Gongalsky, James Bates and veteran Craig Valette, who scored the eventual game-winner in the third period. The Thunder scored a single-game club playoff record three power-play goals.
Bina put the Thunder ahead 1-0 at 8:32 of the first period on a power-play when he buried Cory Urquhart's centering pass from the right wing. Andrew Martens tied the score at 13:05 of the first when he banged in a rebound at the goal crease.
Urquhart put the Thunder ahead again for a 2-1 lead at 14:32 and Gongalsky put Ontario in a 3-1 hole just 57 seconds later when he scored on a turnover in the slot. David Rohlfs forced Jeff Zatkoff to cough up the puck behind the Ontario net and fed Gongalsky, who one-timed the feed to the back of the net from the slot.
Bates' power-play goal at 18:46 hiked the advantage to 4-1 when he walked out from the left boards and ripped a snap shot past Zatkoff from the slot for his fifth goal of the postseason.
The Thunder tightened the defensive screws on the Reign as the shots on goal stood at 7-7 in the second period, preserving the three-goal lead into the third period.
Ontario fought for one last gasp as they scored three times in the third period, but fell short. Brad Mehalko converted a rebound at 2:16 to cut the deficit to 4-2, but Valette answered with the Thunder's third power-play goal of the game when he parked a rebound past Zatkoff at the right side of the crease with 5:36 gone in the final period, putting Stockton ahead 5-2.
Tim Kraus cut the gap to 5-3 for Ontario with eight minutes left when he found the back of the net on a one-timer from the left circle, and Geoff Walker closed the deficit to one goal when he lofted a rebound under the crossbar with 3:15 left in regulation for his third goal of the postseason.
Ontario staged one final rally in the last minute by pulling Zatkoff for a 6-on-5 and nearly tied the game in the waning 20 seconds on three scoring chances in front, but the Thunder defense forced a loose puck battle in behind the net, drawing a cross-checking penalty on Mehalko with four seconds left to put away the Reign.
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Tyler Kindle (healthy), Mike Lalonde (injured reserve), Matt O'Dette (injured reserve), Andrew Perugini (injured reserve) and Adam Huxley (healthy) ... Urquhart finished as the Thunder's leading scorer in the first round series with 9 points (6g-3a) in the seven game series ... the Thunder kept Ontario's power-play at bay with an 0-for-3 clip in Game 7 and killed the remaining 11 Ontario power-plays in the final three games of the series ... Anaheim Duck and former Thunder forward Troy Bodie, an ECHL all-star selection in 2006-07, was in attendance at the game.
The proud ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers and American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons, the Thunder was voted "Best Local Sports Team" by readers of the San Joaquin Magazine, has led the ECHL in attendance for four consecutive seasons and drew 223,854 fans to Stockton Arena in 2008-09. Season tickets for 2009-10 and Kelly Cup Playoff ticket packages are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit http://www.stocktonthunder.com/.
-- YOU GOTTA LOVE THESE GUYS --
1. STK - 30 Parker Van Buskirk
2. ONT - 8 Geoff Walker
3. STK - 10 Cory Urquhart