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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Silent Thunder

The day all Thunder hockey fans waited for-opening night, the first day of ECHL's season, was finally here. And game one, versus the Ontario Reign, was just plain ugly. The final score: 6-3. I'm not really going to do a game recap-you can look on the Stockton Thunder website for that, but I would like to do a fans-eye view on what happened out there.

We were treated to a new team video and music on the Jumbotron and a nice opening ceremony introducing each Thunder team member skating out with a member of the Stockton Colts Hockey team. Big guy/little guy skating out together-really sweet. Stockton Arena was pretty full-6000+ people. If you've been to a few hockey games, you know the routine. After the team introduction, the National Anthem is sung, there's a ceremonial puck drop, then the real puck drop.

And then the game. After getting the crowd loud and rowdy, it was really deflating when Ontario scored against Stockton's goalie Tyson Sexsmith less than a minute into the first period. I wasn't really worried at that point. Nerves, I told myself, opening night jitters. But not too long after that goal, Ontario was up 2-0.

What was wrong? Really poor passing, which results in turnovers. And when your team turns the puck over then can't get it out of their defensive zone, eventually that puck will end up in your net. The puck passing was sloppy because the players seemed out of sync with each other. The Thunder kept shooting wide of the net. Didn't try hard enough to keep the puck in when they'd get it into the offensive zone. The powerplay and penalty kill equally reeked. And the shots on could probably ask, what shots on goal? If I remember correctly, during the opening period the SOG were Thunder-3, Ontario-12. The score after first period? Thunder-0, Ontario 3.

Not everything was terrible, though. In second period, the crowd finally got to stand up, scream and cheer when Thunder's Fraser Clair, with assists from Chris D'Alvise and Jason Pitton, got the puck past Reign goalie Kellen Briggs.

Fraser Clair would get on the score sheet for the next two goals, he scored unassisted in the third period, and had a helper along with J. Pitton on Jesse Gimblett's goal scored in the final minute of the game on a powerplay.

It was a frustrating game to watch. There was no hustle or desperation until the last half of the third period. The Thunder started to get clicking a little, by battling for loose pucks, finally jumping on rebounds, but by then the damage had been done.

Although he didn't seem as big in net or as confident as I've seen him in the preseason games, I can't pin a large part of the loss on Thunder goalie Sexsmith. He did have a few "softies" go in, but on the most part, there was no defense helping him out.

The second game of the season is tomorrow night, also against the Ontario Reign. Getting this stinker of a match out of the way, one can only hope the team learned a little of what not to do. I'm looking forward to a much better outing tomorrow night. In every match-up there can only be one winner, and I hope to see the Thunder rule the arena on Saturday.

For photos from the game please visit:

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