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Stockton Thunder Game 6 Preview

by Mike Benton / Edmonton Oilers


April 21, 2009 - Citizens Business Bank Arena
FACEOFF: 8:00 p.m. MDT

INTERNET: (B2 Networks)


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: at Ontario - Tuesday, April 21 - 7:00 p.m.
Game 7: at Ontario - Wednesday, April 22 - 7:00 p.m. *
* If necessary

The fourth-seeded Thunder returns to play for Game 6 of the Pacific Division Semifinals against the first-seeded Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena, a best-of-seven series that follows a "2-3-2" format. The Thunder leads the series, 3-2 and can clinch its first series victory in franchise history with a victory tonight. The matchup features two players with NHL playing experience (Sebastien Bisaillon, Edmonton Oilers and Damian Surma, Carolina Hurricanes) and three players drafted within the first three rounds of the NHL Entry Draft (Colten Teubert, 1st round, Bud Holloway and Jeff Zatkoff, 3rd round - Los Angeles Kings). It marks the Thunder's third straight playoff appearance and third in four seasons since joining the ECHL. The Reign are making their first ever playoff appearance after capturing the Pacific Division title. The Thunder finished 4-5-1 against the Reign this season.

GAME 5: ONT 2 at STK 4:
Goaltender Parker Van Buskirk won his second straight playoff game with 30 saves to help the Stockton Thunder push the Ontario Reign to the brink of elimination in a 4-2 Thunder victory in Game 5 of the Pacific Division Semifinal of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 4,192 fans at Stockton Arena on Sunday. The Thunder took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and will look to close out Ontario on Tuesday in Game 6 - a chance for the first playoff series triumph in Thunder history. James Bates scored a goal and registered an assist, while defenseman Robbie Bina collected two assists. Ontario goaltender Jeff Zatkoff took the loss, making 24 saves.

GAME 4: ONT 4 at STK 5 (OT):
Rookie James Bates scored at 2:28 into sudden death overtime for his second of two goals, helping guide the Stockton Thunder to a 5-4 overtime victory over the Ontario Reign in Game 4 of the Pacific Division Semifinal round of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 4,913 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday. The Thunder improved to a 2-1 lifetime record in Game 4 contests and won a playoff game in overtime for the first time in club history. David Rohlfs, Cory Urquhart and Ryan Huddy also scored a goal for the Thunder, while rookie goaltender Parker Van Buskirk - added to the Thunder playoff roster less than a week ago - made 29 saves in his playoff debut

GAME 3: ONT 5 at STK 1:
Rookie Geoff Walker scored twice and Bud Holloway scored a goal and added two assists, helping the Ontario Reign send the Stockton Thunder to a 5-1 defeat in Game 3 of the Pacific Division Semifinal round of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 4,047 fans at Stockton Arena on Wednesday.  Ontario took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, aided by goaltender Jeff Zatkoff's 21 saves. Mark Adamek was the only Thunder goal scorer and goaltender Bryan Pitton took the loss, making 25 saves.

GAME 2: STK 6 at ONT 5: Veteran Craig Valette scored two goals and goaltender Bryan Pitton earned the first playoff win of his career as the Stockton Thunder thwarted a third period comeback by the Ontario Reign in a 6-5 victory in Game 2 of the Pacific Division Semifinals before 4,063 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Saturday.  The Thunder knotted the best-of-seven series 1-1 and handed Ontario its first Kelly Cup Playoff loss in team history. Mike Lalonde, Cleve Kinley, Brandon Naurato and Ryan Huddy also scored for Stockton, while Ontario countered with Bud Holloway's hat trick. Mike Howe and Tim Kraus also scored for Ontario.

GAME 1: STK 3 at ONT 4:
Shawn Germain's second goal of the game, a power-play goal with 7:42 left in regulation thwarted a third period rally for the Stockton Thunder, guiding the Ontario Reign to a 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Pacific Division Semifinal round of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs before 3,969 fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena on Friday. Ontario leads the best-of-seven series, 1-0 and won their first Kelly Cup Playoff game in club history. Jon Rheault and P.J. Atherton also scored a goal for Ontario and the Thunder countered with Cory Urquhart's hat trick which was the second in Thunder playoff history. Jeff Zatkoff stopped 30 shots for the win in his pro playoff debut. Bryan Pitton took the loss with eight saves, relieving Andrew Perugini (17 saves), who left the game in the second period due to injury.


It is the first time the Thunder meets the Ontario Reign in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Last season, the Thunder lost to the eventual National Conference champion Las Vegas Wranglers, 4-2 in the National Conference Quarterfinal round. The Thunder won game 1 by a 4-2 score on four goals in the third period and set club playoff records in a 6-3 win in game 5 at Stockton Arena, for most goals in a game (6) and most goals in one period (tied, 4). In 2006-07, Stockton was defeated by the Idaho Steelheads, 4-2 in the National Conference Quarterfinal en route to Idaho's second Kelly Cup Championship in four years. Two players remain with the Thunder, who have appeared in the club's entire 12 lifetime Kelly Cup Playoff games (defenseman Mark Adamek, assistant coach and former defenseman Tim O'Connell) before 2008-09.


The Thunder have scored 19 goals through five playoff games, 1 shy of the club record for most in one series ... Cory Urquhart leads the Thunder with five goals in the series and Craig Valette (3g-4a) lead the Thunder with seven points through four playoff games ... Urquhart's hat trick in Game 1 vs. Ontario was the second in Thunder playoff history.

For the fourth straight season, the Thunder led the ECHL in attendance with an average of 6,218 fans through 36 home games. Stockton has 13 sellouts in the team's franchise history and finished last year as the ECHL's attendance leader for the third consecutive season. The Thunder became the first team since 2004-05 to lead the ECHL in attendance for four straight seasons (Florida led the ECHL in attendance for five straight seasons - 2000-05).

The Thunder was 4-5-1 this season against Ontario, taking nine of 10 points at Citizens Business Bank Arena. In the first meeting between both clubs on Nov. 12 in Ontario, Dusty Collins forced overtime and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff stopped all but one shot in a shootout to lead the Reign to a 3-2 shootout win. The Thunder retaliated in its next meeting on Nov. 15, when Cleve Kinley buried a rocket from the right wing to lead the Thunder to a 3-2 overtime win. John Murray posted the first shutout in Ontario history (26 saves, 4-0 Ontario win) on Dec. 6 at Stockton. In the final meeting between both teams on Mar. 18 at Ontario, Stockton's Andrew Perugini outdueled Zatkoff for his second shutout of the year (34 saves) in a 3-0 win.


The Thunder began its climb back into the Kelly Cup Playoff race on Dec. 31, two days after the hiring of head coach Matt Thomas. Since then, the Thunder finished six games over the .500 mark and a multiple number of players achieved accomplishments in helping guide the Thunder to its third straight Kelly Cup Playoff berth:

  • Ryan Huddy, 35 goals (Thunder single-season record)
  • Ryan Huddy, 73 points (Thunder single-season record)
  • Andrew Perugini, 21 wins (second Thunder goaltender to surpass 20-win plateau, joining Devan Dubnyk)
  • Thunder score eight goals (11/1 at Bakersfield and 1/6 at Phoenix), breaking single-game record
  • Four selected from Stockton to ECHL All-Star Game (Head Coach Matt Thomas, defenseman Kenny MacAulay, center Cory Urquhart and center Ryan Huddy).
  • Back-to-back In Glas Co ECHL Player of the Week honors (Mike Lalonde and Cory Urquhart, Jan. 5-18).


The Thunder has two players (captain and defenseman Matt O'Dette and center Cory Urquhart) with pro championship experience - O'Dette helped guide the Saint John Flames to a Calder Cup championship in 2001 and Urquhart helped guide the Arizona Sundogs to a CHL President's Cup championship last year. Additionally, veteran center Damian Surma and assistant coach Tim O'Connell (defenseman at the time who amassed 65 games of Kelly Cup Playoff experience) helped the Florida Everblades reach back-to-back appearances in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2004-05. In 2004, Surma scored a double-overtime game-winning goal to eliminate Roanoke in the first round and scored an overtime winner in game 6 the 2005 American Conference Finals to help Florida eliminate Charlotte.

A part of the 2003 Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies team that won the Kelly Cup championship, Thunder head coach Matt Thomas was an assistant coach for Atlantic City. Thunder assistant coach Ryan Mougenel scored 9 points (1g-8a) in 17 Kelly Cup Playoff games for Atlantic City during the 2003 postseason.

Below is a list of the top-5 active Thunder players who have the most pro playoff experience in games:

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