STOCKTON, Calif. - The Idaho Steelheads used a pair of goals from Marty Flichel in a three-goal, second period effort to outlast the Stockton Thunder, 6-3 in Game 5 of the National Conference Final of the 2010 Kelly Cup Playoffs before 4,521 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday.
The Thunder, who trailed 4-3 late in the game and nearly tied it with 3:30 left in regulation, had a one-timer goal by Oren Eizenman waved off. Eizenman fired a shot from the high slot that appeared to beat Rejean Beauchemin under the crossbar with the puck zipping out. But the ruling, which interpreted the puck hit the crossbar, negated the goal.
Stockton, who fell 3-2 in the series, now faces elimination for the first time in the postseason. Colin Hemingway, James Bates and Matt Robinson scored for the Thunder. Beauchemin took the win in net with 13 saves, who made his first start of the playoffs in place of injured goaltender Richard Bachman.
STOCKTON VS. IDAHO - NATIONAL CONFERENCE FINALS
Game 1: Stockton 2 at Idaho 4 Game 2: Stockton 0 at Idaho 4 Game 3: Idaho 0 at Stockton 1 Game 4: Idaho 2 at Idaho 7 Game 5: Idaho 6 at Stockton 3 Game 6: Stockton at Idaho - Tuesday, May 11 - 6:10 p.m. (Qwest Arena) Game 7: Stockton at Idaho - Wednesday, May 12 - 6:10 p.m. (Qwest Arena) * * If necessary
"We feel pretty strongly that Oren's shot hit the back bar, but unfortunately the final decision doesn't rest in our hands," said Thunder head coach Matt Thomas. "It's a moot point now, so we need to move forward and win our next game. That's all we're thinking. Our backs are against the wall but we have a lot of fight left in us. I wasn't too pleased with our execution, but we still had a chance to win the hockey game. That's the positive thing about all of this. I know it, we know it and we're putting it behind us."
Bates got the Thunder on the board with his third goal of the playoffs at 7:56 of the first period, taking Matt Robinson's feed and sliding a backhanded deke through the five-hole of Rejean Beauchemin.
Idaho responded with a Flichel power-play goal, knotting the score, 1-1 with 6:16 left in the period when Flichel wired a slap shot to the upper right corner of the net after corralling an outlet pass from Dustin Friesen.
A wild, five-goal outburst in the second period combined by both teams had Idaho coming out with a 4-3 edge after 40 minutes. Beginning a stretch of a four goals in a span of 1:15, Mark Derlago fired a slap shot past Bryan Pitton from the left circle, giving the 2-1 lead to Idaho with 9:11 left in the period.
Brothers Colin and Brett Hemingway connected on a give-and-go play just 25 seconds later, with a snap shot by Colin from the left circle tying the score at 2-2.
Guillaume Monast's drive from the right point put Idaho ahead, 3-2 at 12:14 but the Thunder countered on the ensuing shift, 18 seconds later. James Bates found Robinson in the slot, who whistled a wrist shot past Beauchemin's blocker to tie the game, 3-3.
Flichel's second goal of the game restored Idaho's lead at 4-3, burying a one-timer from the slot on a pass by Derlago from behind the net.
The Thunder then missed on several close-range chances, including a J.F. Caudron snap shot from off the rush at the left circle, and a rebound at the left side of the crease that Robinson missed to an open net, wide from a tight angle.
Eizenman's one-timer that beat Beauchemin, but went to review, stopped play for several minutes. Just 2:08 later, Evan Barlow converted off a turnover at center ice and put Idaho up 5-3 on a snap shot from the left circle.
The Thunder pulled Bryan Pitton for an extra attacker and following a series of close-range chances, Mark McCutcheon spun a loose puck from the left boards into the empty net, from nearly 180 feet to close the score at 6-3 with 18.9 seconds left.
Pitton took his first loss of the postseason with 26 saves.
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Riley Emmerson (inactive list), Garet Hunt (one-game suspension), Trevor Hunt (inactive list), Chris D'Alvise (injury, day-to-day) and Kelly Czuy (injury, day-to-day) ... Idaho outshot Stockton, 32-16 ... the Thunder were held to an 0-for-4 clip on the power-play ... Stockton took only its fourth loss in the last 14 lifetime playoff games at home ... among those in attendance were ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna and retired NHL referee Rob Shick.
The Thunder, looking to stay alive in the postseason, return to play for Game 6 of the series against the Steelheads at Qwest Arena on Tuesday, May 11 at 6:10 p.m. The game can be heard and viewed online exclusively at www.stocktonthunder.com, courtesy of B2 Networks (audio is free of charge).