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Game Preview: Stockton Thunder At Utah Grizzlies

December 13, 2008 - ECHL (ECHL) - Stockton Thunder News Release

FACEOFF: 6:05 p.m. PT
SITE: The E-Center
RADIO: 1420 KSTN
INTERNET: www.stocktonthunder.com (B2 Networks)

2008-09 HEAD TO HEAD SERIES
12/12/08 Stockton 2 at Utah 4
12/13/08 @ Utah 6:05 p.m.
2/13/09 Utah 7:30 p.m.
2/20/09 @ Utah 6:05 p.m.
2/21/09 @ Utah 6:05 p.m.
3/7/09 Utah 7:30 p.m.
3/27/09 Utah 7:30 p.m.

MILESTONE TRACKER

o Mike Lalonde is 4 points away from surpassing Nathan Martz as the Thunder career scoring leader
o Ryan MacMurchy is 1 game away from 100 in his professional career
o Cleve Kinley is 3 games away from 100 in his professional career

TONIGHT'S MATCHUP

The Thunder faces the Utah Grizzlies for the second time this season in a back-to-back series at The E-Center on Saturday. Through 23 games in the lifetime series, the Thunder is 9-11-3 against Utah. Last season, the Thunder finished with a record of 2-5-2 in the head-to-head series. Friday's game is the first for the Thunder in Salt Lake City since April 5, 2008 when the Thunder dropped a 4-3 OT loss to clinch a Kelly Cup Playoff berth in the final day of the regular season. Ryan MacMurchy had six points (2g-4a) in four games last year vs. Utah to lead returning Thunder players.

LAST THREE THUNDER GAMES

12/12/08 - STK 2 at UTA 4: The Utah Grizzlies rallied for two goals in a span of 1:08 in the third period and goaltender Michael Mole made 38 saves to help send the Thunder to a 4-2 defeat, in front of 3,715 at The E-Center on Friday. James Sixsmith registered a game-high three assists while Ryan Kinasewich tallied two points (1g-1a) for Utah. The Thunder received a two-goal effort from Ryan Huddy in his first game back from the American Hockey League.

12/7/08 - STK 3 at FRE 4 (OT): Judd Blackwater's power-play goal at 3:30 of sudden death overtime helped the Fresno Falcons edge the Stockton Thunder (8-10-4, 20 points) in a 4-3 overtime decision, before a crowd of 5.688 at Selland Arena on Sunday. The Thunder received goals from Mike Salekin, Stephane Goulet and David Rohlfs. Goaltender Bryan Pitton made 27 saves to stretch his unbeaten streak (regulation) to three consecutive games. Counterpart Michael Ouzas stopped 19 shots for the victory.

12/6/08 - ONT 4 at STK 0: John Murray made 26 saves for the first shutout in Ontario Reign history and helped send the Thunder to a 4-0 loss before a crowd of 8,174 at Stockton Arena on Saturday night. It was the first time the Thunder suffered a shutout in the 2008-09 season, who were victimized by two-point efforts from Geoff Walker (1g-1a) and Dusty Collins (1g-1a). Thunder rookie goaltender Andrew Perugini countered with a 21-save effort in the defeat.

CROWDING OUT THE ECHL

The Thunder leads the ECHL in attendance with an average of 7,048 through eight games, has 13 sellouts in the team's franchise history and finished last year as the ECHL's attendance leader for the third consecutive season. It was the second straight year the Thunder surpassed the mark of 230,000 fans for one season. The Thunder's yearly attendance total finished at 239,337, an average of 6,648 fans per game. The Thunder became the first team since 2004-05 to lead the ECHL in attendance for three straight seasons (Florida led the ECHL in attendance for five straight seasons). Stockton's crowd of 9,737 on Nov. 8 against Victoria was the team's first sellout of the year.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

"It was an intense game against our closest rival," Thunder coach Chris Cichocki said. "We played hard, but we beat ourselves. We had some costly turnovers in our zone. We would've liked to get the two points, but we have to settle for one."

- Head Coach Chris Cichocki on the Thunder's 4-3 OT loss to Fresno, The Record, 12/8/08

"I'm just working hard," Huxley said. "I've learned to move my feet more and to get in position to get chances."

- Adam Huxley on scoring six goals through 12 games, The Record, 12/6/08

WEEKLY TRANSACTIONS

The Thunder transferred rookie defenseman Jordan Bendfeld from the seven-day to 30-day injured reserve list on 12/10. The following day, the Thunder was assigned rookie center Ryan Huddy, who is second in Thunder scoring with 18 points in 19 games, and rookie defenseman Cody Wild from the Springfield Falcons.

POWER TRIP

Following a slide where the Thunder garnered a 1-for-26 clip on the power-play in five straight games, the man-advantage unit has countered with a power-play goal in 6 of the last 7 games, converting at a 8-for-32 rate (25%). The Thunder scored a power-play goal and went 1-for-4 on the man-advantage in a 4-2 loss to Utah on Friday.

HUDDY HEATING UP

Rookie forward Ryan Huddy enjoyed his second multi-goal game of the season in a 4-2 loss vs. Utah last night. Huddy, who was reassigned to the Thunder from Springfield of the AHL on Thursday, has points in 10 of his last 11 games and for his efforts in the week of Nov. 23, garnered runner-up honors for ECHL Player of the Week and ECHL Rookie of the Month (November).

STEP UP TO THE MIKE

Returning to the lineup this season is left wing Mike Lalonde, who is the Thunder all-time leading goal scorer with 58 goals. Selected as the first player in Thunder history to the ECHL All-Star Game (2006), Lalonde led the ECHL with 308 shots and paced the Thunder with 29 goals as a rookie in 2005-06. Lalonde spent last season with Tilburg of the Netherlands League, guiding his team to the Dutch Cup and scoring 92 points (43g-49a) in just 34 games.

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