Breakfast came with the bitter taste of defeat for the Stockton Thunder in the wee hours of Wednesday morning (Dec. 28).
In a game that officially started at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 2:28 a.m. Wednesday, the Thunder was beaten 5-2 by the Las Vegas Wranglers in front of 4,622 night owls at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The game’s unusual starting time was designed in part to allow casino employees who normally work during games to have an opportunity to attend.
The loss was the fifth in a row for the suddenly sub-.500 Thunder, which will face the Ontario Reign in back-to-back-games at Stockton Arena on Friday and Saturday nights (Dec. 30-31). The defeat also dropped the Thunder (12-13-3) to 13 points behind the first-place Wranglers (18-9-4) in the ECHL Pacific Division standings. Stockton trails second-place Ontario by one point.
After Eric Lampe scored his league-leading 24th goal of the season to give the Wranglers a 1-0 lead slightly more than halfway through the first period, Stockton’s Matt Foy and Ryan Martindale subsequently responded with goals in a span of not quite three and a half minutes to give the Thunder a 2-1 advantage by the first intermission.
Kevin Baker and Milan Kytnar had assists on Foy’s goal, and Nathan Deck and Ian O’Connor were credited with assists on the goal by Martindale.
The Wranglers produced the only goal of the second period when Ash Goldie scored at 5:35 to create a 2-2 tie, and Josh Lunden, Jamie Fritsch and former Thunder forward Adam Huxley scored third-period goals to carry Las Vegas to victory. Huxley, whose goal was an empty-netter, also had an assist on the goal by Fritsch to register a multi-point game against his former team.
Las Vegas goalie Mitch O’Keefe made 31 saves in earning the victory, and Thunder goalie Olivier Roy recorded 27 saves in a losing effort.
The Thunder lost winger Cameron Abney early in the third period, when he was hit with a game misconduct for abuse of officials after being charged with a double-minor for roughing.
Before the game, the Thunder announced that defenseman Dan Ringwald was being loaned to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League. Ringwald, who has bounced up and down between Oklahoma City and Stockton this season, has amassed nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 12 games with the Thunder. Prior to Tuesday, he also had played in seven games for the Barons and had collected two assists.
Thunder captain Jason Morgan, who returned to the team’s lineup for a game at Bakersfield on Monday (Dec. 26) after being activated from the injured reserve list, did not play against the Wranglers and was placed back on the three-day injured list. Thunder defenseman Brock Matheson was activated from the injured list and returned to action.
The Thunder again played without forwards Garet Hunt and Jordan Foreman, who sat out because of suspensions. Both players are eligible to be back in uniform for the upcoming home games against Ontario.