Stockton, CA (12/20/14) - Goaltender Kent Simpson made 16 saves in the face of a heavy Idaho push in the third period, allowing the Stockton Thunder to sneak away with a 3-1 victory over the Steelheads Saturday night at Stockton Arena.
Idaho (17-9-2, 36 points) saw its four-game winning streak came to an end but still holds a three-point lead over Ontario in the ECHL's Pacific Division. Idaho and Stockton wrap up their three-game/three-night stretch on Sunday with a 4 PM (PST) start in California.
The two teams combined for 23 shots on net in the opening 20 minutes with each team getting one. After Idaho successfully killed off a four-minute, double-minor penalty, Stockton's Loic Leduc's shot from the right wing snuck between Henri Kiviaho and the right-wing post at 7:59 to give the Thunder a one-goal lead. Idaho answered quickly, though, on a rush up the left side. James Livingston got the puck ahead to Brett Robinson, who peppered a puck off the leg pad of Simpson. However, Wade MacLeod was right there for Idaho and the rebound caromed in off his leg at 9:35 to even the game at one goal apiece.
Stockton scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal early in the second. As Jack MacLellan held the puck behind the Idaho net, Alex Mallet streaked toward the net from the right point. MacLellan fed him the puck and he banged it past Kiviaho's blocker at 3:25 to make it a 2-1 lead in favor of the home team.
Idaho finally got the pace to its liking in the third period and pounded the Thunder net with 16 shots and several more that just missed the target, including a Mike Dalhuisen point shot midway through the frame and a Steve Quailer shot from the edge of the slot in the final eight minutes. Simpson came up with quality saves on several occasions over the final 20 minutes as Stockton spent most of the period hemmed into its own end.
With less than a minute to play and Idaho's net empty in favor of an extra attacker, Tyler Shattock gathered a loose puck in his own end, skated out to neutral territory and fed the puck ahead to MacLellan for the game-cinching empty-net goal with just 38 seconds left to play in the contest.
Kiviaho allowed just two goals on 25 shots for Idaho as the team's defense did an admirable job keeping pucks to the outside. Simpson was strong in victory for Stockton, though, stopping 32 of 33.
Idaho's power-play came up empty on five chances, including two opportunities in the third period when trailing by a goal. The penalty kill continued its strong play of late, killing off the early double-minor as part of a 3-for-3 night.
After Sunday's game in Stockton, Idaho returns to the ice on December 26 when the Ontario Reign come to town. Tickets are available by calling 208-331-8497.
COORS OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME - Wade MacLeod (G)
CENTURYLINK THREE STARS:(1) Kent Simpson (STK)(2) Alex Mallet (STK)(3) Jack MacLellan (STK)