STOCKTON, Calif. – Olivier Roy put on the best performance of his postseason career and the Stockton Thunder won Game 5 over the Idaho Steelheads 2-1 to become the 2013 Western Conference champions in front of 4,530 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday.
The Thunder, who clinched the series over the Steelheads 4-1, will now advance to the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in team history. Stockton will face the Reading Royals, who eliminated the Cincinnati Cyclones in five games.
“It’s a great feeling.” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said, “This building, our fans, our organization, and everyone that’s been involved since Day 1 to present day, they deserve a banner. The opportunity to put a banner in the building is something that I really strived to be able to do, and we’ve fallen short a couple times before. To finally get one is a pretty special accomplishment.”
STOCKTON VS. IDAHO – WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
(Stockton wins, 4-1)
Game 1: Stockton 3 at Idaho 1
Game 2: Stockton 4 at Idaho 3 (OT)
Game 3: Idaho 2 at Stockton 1 (OT)
Game 4: Idaho 2 at Stockton 3
Game 5: Idaho 1 at Stockton 2
Forward Andrew Clark put the Thunder on top for good, while forward Ryan Hayes got the scoring started for Stockton.
Roy made 44 saves in net, coming up big whenever his team needed him. Idaho’s Josh Robinson stopped 26 shots.
Though the Steelheads outshot the Thunder 18–10 in the opening frame, Roy kept Idaho off the score sheet with several key saves. One of those saves led to a two-on-one with Hayes and defenseman Tony DeHart. DeHart’s initial shot from the right circle was saved, but Hayes was able to poke home the rebound to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead 16:50 into the first period.
Idaho evened things up at the 4:39 mark of the second period when Tyler Gron stuffed the rebound from Patrick Cullity’s shot in the goal at the left post.
Late in the period, Thunder captain Garet Hunt poked the puck towards the Idaho net. Robinson came out to play the puck, but missed on the check. Clark was able to pick up the puck and wrap around the net for a goal, putting the Thunder up 2-1 18:16 into the second period.
As the clock ticked down in the third period, the Steelheads attack grew more and more relentless. However, the Thunder was up to the task, stopping all Idaho attempts and holding on to claim the first conference title in team history.
“It’s a real credit to the whole organization.” Hunt said, “It’s not just one or two guys in this locker room. It’s an organization that definitely gets you to where you are, all the way from the front office staff to [Thomas] doing scouting in the offseason to getting guys in here to be able to contribute. It’s definitely a credit to every single guy in this locker room.
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Ryan Constant and Cameron Abney…the Thunder was outshot 45-28…Andrew Clark and Ryan Hayes have scored three times, each time in the same game…Daniel Gibb was given a game misconduct in the second period…the Thunder clinched the first championship of any kind in team history…the Thunder improves to 4-6 all-time in Game 5 scenarios lifetime and 7-3 when opponents face elimination … their eight wins at home are the most in the ECHL for the playoffs.
Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals will take place Saturday, May 18 against Reading at the Sovereign Center at 5:05 p.m. MDT.