Thunder Shock Reign 5-2, Take 3-0 Series Lead
Riding the hot glove of goaltender Brian Foster and the hot stick of forward Joey Martin, the #7 Stockton Thunder grabbed a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference quarterfinals series as they defeated the #2 Ontario Reign in Ontario 5-2 Tuesday night. Foster was peppered with shots all night but denied Ontario on many chances from the beginning of the first period all the way to the final horn, ending the game with 41 saves on 43 shots.
"We knew going in they were going to push and this was going to be a good effort by them, and it certainly was," Head Coach Rich Kromm said. "Our goaltender was good tonight and kept us alive."
Martin was the other standout Thunder player as he collected the unconventional hat trick, the second hat trick in as many games for the Thunder after forward Jeremy Langlois earned one in game two. Martin collected a shorthanded goal, an empty-net goal and lastly a five-on-five tally to seal the victory for the Thunder.
The last two goals for Martin came in the last 1:14 of the game. His second, the empty-net goal, came 2:49 after captain Garet Hunt tipped in defenseman Marc Cantin's shot to collect the lead for good with 4:03 left in the game. The captain's tally ended his 30 game scoreless streak and was the eventual game three winner.
Hunt's tally was in response to Ontario's second tally, which came from their captain Derek Couture to tie the game at 2-2. The goal came when it was four-on-four hockey after a scrum in front of Foster ended with Ontario defenseman Cody Sol and Martin earning the roughing minor.
The key to the Thunder's success has been the great starts to each game, as for the third straight night the Thunder scored first, this time courtesy of forward Alan Quine. While on the power play, with Ontario defenseman Matt Register in the box for tripping, the Thunder won the offensive face-off. Forward Ryan Hayes took the shot, which Ontario netminder J.P. Anderson saved but Quine was there to tap in the rebound.
Foster made 17 saves in the first period including a breathtaking goal-line glove save on Ontario's Gasper Kopitar. The Thunder have yet to allow a first period goal in the series.
"I'm feeling really good," Foster said. "Coming into the series I was excited to play Ontario. We always have good games against them. They [big saves] always fire you up, or when guys make good plays or block shots. All the little things fire you up."
Ontario would respond to Quine's tally in the second period with a goal from forward Maxium Kitsyn, just the second goal by an Ontario forward in the series. After stonewalling Ontario for the first 24:16 of the game, Kitsyn finally trickled the puck past Foster between his glove and left pad.
However, for Ontario the tie lasted for less than a period, as the Thunder found the net for the second time with the shorthanded tally from Martin at the 16:11 mark. After entering the offensive zone, forward Andrew Clark dropped the puck off to Martin. The Thunder's regular season-leading scorer whipped a shot past Anderson's blocker for the 2-1 lead, before his two goals in the third period. The Thunder are back in action tomorrow night, looking for the series sweep in Ontario.
"The fourth win is always the hardest one to get," Kromm said. "We have to make sure we're ready to go tomorrow. We've talked about a shift-in, shift-out mentality from the beginning, and that's what we have to focus on right away. We have to come out in the first ten minutes and play our game, get pucks deep and work in the offensive zone."
If Ontario wins game four, the Thunder would have another playoff game at home in this series. Game five would be at Stockton Arena on Saturday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. PST. Special playoff ticket packages are available through the Stockton Thunder front office by calling 209-373-1500. Fans can get tickets to all of the Thunder's 2014 Kelly Cup Playoff games with the purchase of a new season ticket. For more information, visit StocktonThunder.com.
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