Thunder advance to third round
Oilers ECHL affiliate Stockton Thunder eliminates Bakersfield, 4-1 in series, advances to Conference Finals for first time in club history from four-goal third period
|Members of the Stockton Thunder celebrate following their series victory over the Bakersfield Condors. (photo by George Steckler / Stockton Thunder)
The Thunder beat Bakersfield, 4-1 in the best-of-seven series and advanced to the National Conference Finals for the first time in club history, one season after achieving its deepest playoff run in four years (second round, Division Finals). Stockton will face the Idaho Steelheads in the Conference Finals, a rematch of the 2007 National Conference Quarterfinal round.
Andrew Perugini improved to 7-2 in the playoffs with 31 saves in net. The win, capping off a bet between Stockton mayor Ann Johnston and Bakersfield's Harvey Hall, awards Stockton's mayor with a supply of Dewer's candies from Bakersfield from a pre-series wager placed on the eve of Game 1.
STOCKTON VS. BAKERSFIELD - NATIONAL CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
Game 1: Stockton 3 at Bakersfield 2 (OT)
Game 2: Stockton 4 at Bakersfield 3 (OT)
Game 3: Bakersfield 3 at Stockton 0
Game 4: Bakersfield 2 at Stockton 6
Game 5: Bakersfield 4 at Stockton 7
Stockton wins series, 4-1
"Just like last night, there's so many guys you could attribute this win to - it was a complete, team effort," said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. "What a win. It's a historic night for our organization and I was very impressed and proud for our fans with the energy they exuded in our building the last two nights. We displayed a tremendous compete factor in this series and that helps us with preparations for Idaho, as we look ahead to the next round."
On the first shift and first shot of the game, Chris D'Alvise helped the Thunder draw first blood with a wrist shot from the left circle, completing James Bates' pass from the right wing for a 1-0 lead just 13 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Bakersfield answered on Mark Voakes' shorthanded goal for a 1-1 tie with 6:07 left in the period, when he buried a one-timer from the right circle off an Andrew Ianiero cross-ice feed.
Yet, the Thunder restored the one-goal cushion for a 2-1 lead after one period, when Matt Marquardt collected a blocked shot from J.F. Caudron and whistled a snap shot past Timo Pielmeier's blocker with 2:16 left in the first period for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Garet Hunt's second goal of the postseason hiked the Thunder lead to 3-1 with 2:47 gone in the second period, when he took a Bates centering feed between the circles and beat Pielmeier with a snap shot under the crossbar.
Just 35 second later, Bakersfield closed the gap to 3-2 on Stephane Goulet's one-timer at the left circle, converting off Ryan Menei's cross-ice pass.
Perugini helped the Thunder uphold the one goal lead, stopping 10 shots in the second period.
The Thunder then approached the final period by flying out of the gates with three goals in a span of 6:07 to assume a commanding 6-2 lead, putting the game out of reach. Jason Pitton spun a shot from the right circle that caromed off a Bakersfield defenseman and found the back of the net, putting the Thunder up 4-2 with 2:03 gone in the period.
Veteran Colin Hemingway buried his first goal of the postseason to boost the lead to 5-2 with 15:32 left in regulation, converting Pitton's pass from behind the net with a one-timer from between the circles.
Steve Vanoosten's first professional goal in the playoffs lifted the Thunder to a 6-2 advantage on a power-play goal with 11:50 left, when he corralled Marquardt's cross-ice pass at the right circle and ripped a wrist shot over Pielmeier's glove.
With Bakersfield forced into high pursuit mode to save their season, Andrew Ianiero re-directed a wrist shot by Kyle Calder from the right wing just 20 seconds later, cutting the deficit to 6-3 but the Thunder responded after Pielmeier was pulled for an extra attacker, as an Oren Eizenman faceoff win found Bryan Young, who sailed the puck into an empty net from 180 feet for a 7-3 Thunder lead while shorthanded with 4:35 left.
MacGregor Sharp closed the scoring with his only goal of the series with 3:56 left with a one-timer at the doorstep.
Pielmeier closed his postseason with the loss, making 27 saves.
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Riley Emmerson (inactive list), Brett Hemingway (inactive list), Trevor Hunt (inactive list), Justin DaCosta (healthy) and Kelly Czuy (injury, day-to-day) ... the Thunder improved to 3-2, lifetime in Game 5 situations and 3-2 in elimination games ... Stockton's win snapped Bakersfield's six-game win streak in Game 5 situations ... Stockton has scored 15 goals, combined in its elimination victories over Alaska and Bakersfield in the playoffs ... Stockton improved to 4-1 at home in this year's playoffs.
The Thunder will square off against the Idaho Steelheads for Game 1 of the National Conference Finals, beginning Friday, Apr. 30 at Qwest Arena at 6:10 p.m. Both teams take the series to Stockton Arena, beginning with Game 3, on Wednesday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.The game can be heard and viewed online exclusively at www.stocktonthunder.com, courtesy of B2 Networks (audio is free of charge).
-- ALL OUT, ALL SEASON --
1. STK - 9 Oren Eizenman
2. STK - 4 Steve Vanoosten
3. STK - 20 Colin Hemingway
LINK TO BOX SCORE