Just when it appeared the Stockton Thunder might never score, a late flurry of goals lifted the team to a dramatic come-from-behind victory on Saturday night (Nov. 26).
After being blanked for nearly 57 minutes, the Thunder erupted for three goals in the final 3:05 of regulation time to beat the Las Vegas Wranglers 3-2 before a pleasantly surprised crowd of 5,572 at Stockton Arena.
“We should have just played the last three minutes at the start,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas said. “I don’t know why we played the other 57.”
The Thunder (8-6-3) trailed 1-0 until Bretton Cameron scored from the right-wing faceoff circle at 16:55 of the third period to set off a wild finish in which the teams combined to score four times in the game’s closing moments. Cameron, who accounted for two of those goals, capped the fireworks by netting the game-winner with only 10.9 seconds remaining in regulation time.
“We showed we’re a resilient team and we never gave up,” Cameron said. “It was a divisional game, and to steal those two points and not give them one is huge.”
Stockton found itself on a power play about a minute after Cameron’s game-tying goal, and appeared to have the game won when Ryan Martindale scored his first goal as a pro to put the Thunder ahead 2-1 with 1:02 to go. The Wranglers promptly responded, however, and pulled into a 2-2 tie when Eric Lampe scored his 17th goal of the season just 16 seconds later.
“The guy picked my pocket,” said Thunder goalie Thomas Heemskerk, who made 28 saves to improve his record to 6-2-0. “It was totally my fault, and I was thankful for (Cameron) to go down and do what he did to score another goal for us.”
Cameron’s game-winner came when he capped a two-on-one break with Jordan Fulton. The goal snapped a two-game losing streak on home ice for the Thunder and kept the team within four points of first-place Las Vegas (10-6-3) in the ECHL Pacific Division standings.
“Obviously, it was an emotional win for us,” Thomas said. “We needed it. We can’t give away points in our own building.”
The Wranglers took their 1-0 lead late in the first period, when Chris Francis scored on a Las Vegas power play. For much of the rest of the game, it appeared the one goal might be enough for Las Vegas goalie Joe Fallon, who seemed headed for a shutout until the hectic finish. Fallon finished with 34 saves in defeat.
Nathan Deck ended up with two points for the Thunder as he was credited with assists on Martindale’s goal and Cameron’s game-winner. The assists marked the first multi-point game of Deck’s professional career.
The Thunder next plays on Wednesday night (Nov. 30) on the road against the Ontario Reign. Those two teams will meet again two nights later at Stockton Arena before going back to Ontario to close out a three-game set next Sunday (Dec. 4).
Thunder captain Jason Morgan was held out of the lineup against Las Vegas because of a nagging injury and again spent the game on the Stockton bench as an assistant coach. Morgan’s status was listed as day-to-day.
The game was the eighth of the season in which Stockton has managed to score at least three goals. The Thunder is 7-0-1 in those games.