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Thunder tame Wranglers 3-1, force Game 7

by Mike Benton / Edmonton Oilers


Thunder force Game 7 on Van Buskirk's 22 saves, MacAulay's game-winner

Stockton Thunder goaltender Parker Van Buskirk turns away a shot (photo: Ryan Gallegos/IIA Photography)

LAS VEGAS - Goaltender Parker Van Buskirk made 22 saves and defenseman Kenny MacAulay scored an eventual game-winning goal late in the second period to help the Stockton Thunder force Game 7 in a 3-1 victory over the host Las Vegas Wranglers in Game 6 of the Pacific Division Final of the 2009 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before a crowd of 3,136 at Orleans Arena on Tuesday.

Both the Thunder and Las Vegas will play in the 18th Game 7 contest in ECHL history and the second consecutive Game 7 in as many series which is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Las Vegas. The Thunder, who broke the Wranglers four-game winning streak at home in the postseason, were also aided by goals from Craig Valette and Cory Urquhart, while Kelly Czuy scored Las Vegas' only goal.

The Thunder outshot Las Vegas, 37-23 and scored all three goals in the final minute of each period.

Game 1: Las Vegas 3 at Stockton 4 
Game 2: Stockton 2 at Las Vegas 4
Game 3: Las Vegas 1 at Stockton 5
Game 4: Las Vegas 3 at Stockton 2 (OT)
Game 5: Stockton 2 at Las Vegas 4
Game 6: Stockton 3 at Las Vegas 1
Game 7: Stockton at Las Vegas - Wednesday, May 6 - 7:30 p.m. (Orleans Arena)

Valette opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the playoffs with 13 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Thunder ahead 1-0, beating goaltender Glenn Fisher with a wraparound to the blocker side off a forehand shot.

Las Vegas knotted the score at 1-1 when Czuy snuck a rebound past Van Buskirk for a power-play goal at the 2:24 mark of the second period, seconds after Van Buskirk denied Mike Madill's wrist shot from the right circle.

After both teams played through a furious pace for the next 17 minutes, MacAulay lifted the Thunder to a 2-1 lead on the eventual game-winning goal with 25 seconds left in the second period, collecting David Rohlfs' deflection and ripping a wrist shot through traffic from the left point.

The furious pace of play intensified for both teams in the third as the Thunder looked to gain breathing room on the scoreboard and Las Vegas aimed for the equalizer. Two glove saves by Van Buskirk, including a point-blank chance on Dan Riedel, upheld the Thunder one-goal lead. Damian Surma nearly bumped the Thunder lead to two goals late in the game on a semi-breakaway down the right wing but had his shot nullified on a poke check by Fisher.

Las Vegas pulled Fisher for an extra attacker and the Thunder capitalized on the empty-net opportunity with Urquhart's ninth goal of the playoffs with 16 seconds left in regulation. Valette's precise clearing attempt off the glass reached center ice and the stick of Surma, who took off on a 2-on-1 with Urquhart. From the left wing, Surma fed Urquhart at the right circle for the open net tally, putting the game out of reach.

Wranglers goaltender Glenn Fisher made 34 saves in the loss.

NOTES: Before the game, the Thunder activated Mike Lalonde off injured reserve and placed defenseman Tyler Kindle on the three-day injured reserve list ... the Thunder scratched Andrew Perugini (injury, day-to-day), Adam Huxley (healthy), Judd Blackwater (injured reserve), Matt O'Dette (injured reserve), Kindle and Sebastien Bisaillon (healthy) ... the Thunder won in Las Vegas for the first time since Game 1 of the 2008 National Conference Quarterfinal, snapping a stretch of seven consecutive setbacks which included playoffs and regular season ... Lalonde was making his first appearance since Game 5 of the first round series against Ontario ... the win was Stockton's first ever in a Game 6 situation.

The Thunder and Wranglers square-off in Game 7 of the second series tonight at Orleans Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m. The game is available on radio at 1420 KSTN and is available for viewing online (audio is free-of-charge) for a $7 charge at (courtesy of B2 Networks).

Three Stars
1. STK - 6 Kenny MacAulay
2. LV - 35 Glenn Fisher
3. LV - 15 Kelly Czuy

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