Nearly 13,000 passionate hockey fans turned out for a Monday night ECHL showdown that saw the Stockton Thunder (15-7-3-2) defeat the San Francisco Bulls (11-16-1-2), by a score of 6-4.
Scoring broke open halfway through the first period when Mikael Tam, a defenseman on loan from the Worcester Sharks, scored his first goal of the season. Action turned soon after as Thunder forward Toni Rajala potted back-to-back goals to give Stockton a 2-1 lead. A feisty first period came to an end with both teams combining for 36 penalty minutes.
Nearly two minutes in to the second period, Bulls forward Kris Belan pulled the fans to their feet with his fifth goal of the season, tying the game at two apiece. At 4:47 of the second period, Thunder defenseman Mike Little got just enough on his wrister to roll over the shoulder of San Jose Sharks goaltending prospect Thomas Heemskerk and in to the back of the net for his squad’s second lead of the night. Ten minutes later, Garet Hunt and Rajala scored 48 seconds apart and the Thunder jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Rajala’s hat trick marked the end of the night for Heemskerk as Taylor Nelson, another on loan from the Worcester Sharks, entered the game.
San Francisco sprung back to life in the third period after Sacha Guimond got his shot through on an early power play opportunity. With 7:14 to go in the game, Alex Tuckerman narrowed the gap for San Francisco to just one goal after finishing on the rush and burying a perfect feed from Andrew Crescenzi.
Nelson turned in a few highlight reel saves in a little over a period of play, including some acrobatic denies on the penalty kill. However, hopes dwindled for San Francisco after Cameron Abney finally solved the Bulls back-up netminder for his second goal of the year, securing a 6-4 win for the Thunder. Cody Reichard, got the win in the pipes for Stockton by turning away 25 of 29 shots.
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