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Friday, April 30, 2010

Stockton Thunder GAME PREVIEW: Game On(e)!

04/30/2010 12:00 AM

April 30, 2010 - Qwest Arena
FACEOFF: 6:10 p.m.

WATCH PARTY: Stockton Arena (King's Room)
RADIO: None (Online only)
INTERNET: (B2 Networks)

Game 1: Stockton at Idaho - Friday, Apr. 30 - 6:10 p.m.
Game 2: Stockton at Idaho - Saturday, May 1 - 6:10 p.m.
Game 3: Idaho at Stockton - Wednesday, May 5 - 7:00 p.m.
Game 4: Idaho at Stockton - Friday, May 7 - 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Idaho at Stockton - Saturday, May 8 - 7:30 p.m. *
Game 6: Stockton at Idaho - Tuesday, May 11 - 6:10 p.m. *
Game 7: Stockton at Idaho - Wednesday, May 12 - 6:10 p.m. *
* If necessary

The sixth-seeded Thunder, opens its first trip to the National Conference Finals tonight against the first-seeded Idaho Steelheads (second meeting in the playoffs, first since 2007) at Qwest Arena, a best-of-seven series that follows a "2-3-2" format. The series features two players with NHL playing experience (Colin Hemingway, St. Louis Blues and Bryan Young, Edmonton Oilers). It marks the Thunder's fourth straight playoff appearance and four in five seasons since joining the ECHL. The Steelheads are in their seventh straight playoff appearance and return to the Conference Finals the first time since 2007, when they eventually won their second Kelly Cup championship. Stockton won its second rounds series, 4-1 over Bakersfield and Idaho swept Utah in four games.

The Stockton Thunder are asking all fans in attendance for Thunder home Kelly Cup Playoff games at Stockton Arena to "go gold" and wear gold clothing similar to the color in the Thunder uniform scheme. The Thunder, who ranked third in ECHL attendance this season and drew over 6,000 fans per game for the fifth consecutive season, will roll out exclusive playoff merchandise including playoff rally towels, collectible playoff pucks and gold bandanas. Special gold playoff t-shirts will be on sale at all home games in the Stockton Arena "Fan Attic" and all in-arena merchandise locations.

The Thunder advanced to the National Conference Finals for the first time in club history, defeating the Bakersfield Condors, 4-1 in the best-of-seven series in the National Conference Semifinals ... the Thunder won two games in overtime at Rabobank Arena and became the first team to hand back-to-back losses in two nights to the Condors, in Bakersfield, since Idaho on Jan. 29-30 ... J.F. Caudron and Oren Eizenman had the overtime winners and Eizenman led the Thunder in scoring for the series with six points (3g-3a) in five games... Stockton defeated Bakersfield, 3-2 in overtime in Game 1 at Rabobank Arena with Caudron's overtime winner with 9:42 left ... Kelly Czuy tied the game with less than three minutes left in regulation ... Eizenman's OT winner with 10:59 left, the next night, lifted the Thunder to a 2-0 series lead in a 4-3 victory at Rabobank Arena ... in Game 3, J.P. Levasseur shut out the Thunder with 35-save shutout in a 3-0 Bakersfield win at Stockton Arena ... the Thunder struck back with Matt Robinson's playoff career-high three points (1g-2a) in a 6-2 victory over Bakersfield at Stockton Arena in Game 4, seizing a 3-1 series lead ... in Game 5, Eizenman's pair of assists, along with 14 skaters hitting the scoresheet, helped the Thunder eliminate Bakersfield in a 7-4 win at Stockton Arena, winning the series 4-1 ... Stockton bursted with a four-goal third period and Colin Hemingway registered the eventual game-winning goal.

The Thunder advanced to the second round for the second straight season, defeating the Alaska Aces, 3-1 in the best-of-five series in the National Conference Quarterfinals ... the Thunder became the first team in ECHL history to eliminate Alaska in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs ... Kelly Czuy had three straight multi-point games and Oren Eizenman led the Thunder series scoring with nine assists ... Defenseman B.J. Crum scored back-to-back goals, including the game-winner with 2:51 left in regulation to snap a 3-3 tie and help the Aces rally in a third period comeback, defeating the Thunder, 4-3 in Game 1 at Wasilla, Alaska ... a four goal effort in the third period, stamping a string of three unanswered goals, helped the Stockton Thunder sink the host the Alaska Aces in a 5-2 victory in Game 2 - J.F. Caudron had the game-winning goal ... All-star center Chris D'Alvise scored two goals and added an assist, Andrew Perugini made 39 saves and the Stockton Thunder scored a playoff club record five goals in the third period, en route to a thrilling 7-4 victory over the Alaska Aces in Game 3 at Stockton Arena ... the Thunder, who took a 2-1 series lead, scored five times in a span of 6:42 in the third period ... the Thunder erased two separate two-goal deficits in the first period and scored six unanswered goals, led by James Bates' four points (1g-3a) and a pair of goals by Matt Robinson, eliminating Alaska in a 8-5 victory in Game 4 at Stockton Arena ... ten different Thunder players hit the scoresheet and Andrew Perugini made 40 saves in net.

The Thunder was 2-9-1 this season against Idaho and last faced the Steelheads on Jan. 2 ... Stockton went 2-1-0 in the last three games against the Steelheads - all at Qwest Arena ... the Thunder have added seven new players to the roster since the two teams last met at Stockton Arena on Nov. 28 ... the teams opened the regular season with a three-game series in Boise and the Steelheads completed a three-game sweep with a 3-2 win on Oct. 18 ... the Thunder dropped a 2-1 shootout loss at Stockton Arena in the next meeting on Nov. 13 ... Idaho won, 4-2 the next evening on Evan Barlow's pair of goals ... Idaho finished a three-game sweep of the series in Stockton the next evening, 3-1 behind Richard Bachman's 20 saves ... Idaho followed by a three-game sweep of the Thunder, at Stockton Arena on Nov. 25 and Nov. 27-28 ... the Thunder snapped Idaho's nine-game win streak in the series with a 5-1 victory at Qwest Arena on Dec. 31, behind Chris D'Alvise's pair of goals and Bryan Pitton's 40 saves ... Idaho won, 5-1 on New Year's Day behind Sergei Korostin's pair of goals ... the next evening, the Thunder closed out the regular season series with another 5-1 triumph over the host Steelheads - Andrew Perugini made 39 stops and Oren Eizenman led the offense with a two-goal effort ... Stockton was lifted into a tie for second place in the Pacific Division with the victory.

The Thunder ranks second in ECHL playoff attendance with an average of 4,433 fans per game and recently completed the regular season third in the ECHL in attendance with an average of 6,031 fans per game, marking the fifth straight season that an average of 6,000 fans have crossed the Stockton Arena turnstiles. On Jan. 30, the Thunder drew 9,158 fans to Stockton Arena against Victoria, the second largest home crowd this year. The Thunder led the ECHL in attendance last year with an average of 6,218 fans through 36 home games. Stockton has 14 sellouts in the team's franchise history and drew a standing room only crowd of 9,392 on Nov. 8 vs. Alaska. Last year, 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).

It is the second time the Thunder are meeting the Idaho Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the first since 2007 when Idaho defeated Stockton, 4-2 in the National Conference Quarterfinals. The Thunder has advanced to the National Conference Finals for first time in franchise history and last year, played hockey into the month of May for the first time in team history, losing in seven games to the Las Vegas Wranglers, in the Pacific Division Final (second round). The Thunder achieved its first playoff series win in club history by defeating the Ontario Reign, 4-3, which included five one-goal games. In 2007-08, the Thunder was defeated by Las Vegas, 4-2 in six games of the National Conference Quarterfinal and was defeated, 4-2 to the eventual Kelly Cup Champion Idaho Steelheads in the quarterfinal round in 2006-07. Six players remain from last year's Thunder playoff team.


Apr. 10, 2007 NQF Idaho Qwest Arena W, 4-2 - Dubnyk/Silverthorn Tim Sestito
Apr. 11, 2008 NQF Las Vegas Orleans Arena W, 4-2 - Boron/Lalande Jonas Almtorp
Apr. 10, 2009 PSF Ontario CB Bank Arena L, 3-4 - Perugini-PITTON/Zatkoff Shawn Germain
Apr. 24, 2009 PF Las Vegas Stockton Arena W, 4-3 - Van Buskirk/Fisher-DeCARO Cory Urquhart
Apr. 5, 2010 NQF Alaska Menard Center L, 3-4 - Perugini/Sauer B.J. Crum
Apr. 16, 2010 NSF Bakersfield Rabobank Arena W, 3-2 10:18 Perugini/Levasseur J.F. Caudron
All-time game one record: 4-2

After beginning the season 5-11-3 and 1-6-3 on their own home ice, the Thunder roared back after the start of December to finish with a swing of 28-19-7 overall and 16-6-4 at Stockton Arena, at one point moving to a tie for first place in the Pacific Division with Bakersfield in the final week of the regular season. A multiple number of milestones were reached or neared in helping the Thunder secure its fourth straight Kelly Cup Playoff berth:

James Bates, 73 points (tied Thunder single-season record - Ryan Huddy, 08-09)
Chris D'Alvise, 34 goals (one shy of tying Thunder single-season record)
Andrew Perugini, 22 wins (career-high, two win shy of tying single-season record)
Wins, 33 (second highest in Thunder history)
Wins - road, 16 (one shy of tying Thunder single-season record)

The Thunder has one player (captain J.F. Caudron) and head coach Matt Thomas with pro championship experience - Caudron helped guide the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies to a Kelly Cup championship title in 2003, the same team that had Thomas as assistant coach. Additionally, veteran right wing Colin Hemingway (Alaska, 2008-09), right wing Brett Hemingway (Alaska, 2008-09) and right wing Kelly Czuy (Las Vegas, 2007-08) have helped guide their former respective teams to appearances in the Kelly Cup Finals.

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


ALL TIME PLAYOFF SCORING (Thunder active players)
# Player GP G A PTS
12 J.F. Caudron 40 23 20 43
34 Kelly Czuy 51 16 23 39
20 Colin Hemingway 26 10 18 28
28 James Bates 22 7 17 24
9 Oren Eizenman 15 7 13 20

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