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Thunder forces Game 7 with improbable rally

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POSTED April 13, 2013 2:28 a.m.

By MIKE BENTON

Stockton Thunder

STOCKTON — Down 3-0 with just over 15 minutes left in their season, the Stockton Thunder scored five unanswered goals in the third period to stay alive and earn a remarkable 5-3 comeback win over the Las Vegas Wranglers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday at Stockton Arena.

Thunder captain Garet Hunt notched the tying goal and a plus-4 rating. Defenseman Daniel Gibb netted the game-winner (the first goal of his professional career). Forwards Andrew Clark, Harrison Reed, and Shawn Weller each contributed goals to the rally as well.

In net, Olivier Roy made 18 saves, while his Las Vegas counterpart Joe Fallon stopped 45 shots. Fallon had a shutout streak against the Thunder of 147:22 snapped as the rally began with 15:05 left in regulation.

“I’m just so proud of them.” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said, “Within that game, I never thought for a second that we couldn’t win. When [Las Vegas] scored in the third, I thought the mountain was too big to climb. I thought, ‘I can’t believe we’re working so hard and not being rewarded for it.’”

“We played out hearts out tonight.” continued Thomas, “We had a goaltender that was refusing to break. The guys didn’t quit, and I’m really proud of them. That’s all I can say.”

Carlo Finucci started off the scoring with a slop shot from behind the left circle, beating Roy stick side on the power play to give Las Vegas a 1-0 lead 4:19 into the opening frame.

The Wranglers doubled their lead at the 18:28 mark on another power play. With a pair of Thunder defenseman out of assignment, Marc Cantin took advantage with a shot from the left circle that went in the top corner and made the count 2-0.

The Thunder attacked the net relentlessly during the second period, outshooting the Wranglers 16-5. However, neither team was able to change the scoreboard during the middle frame.

With 4:25 to go in the third period, Sean Wiles made the count 3-0 by knocking a pass from Charlie Cook by Roy in front of the crease.

Just 30 seconds later, Clark gave the Thunder a lifeline. Skating by two Las Vegas defenders, Clark fired a shot from the slot that finally beat Fallon and cut the deficit to 3-1.

Needing another goal to make it interesting, the Thunder capitalized on a power play. Defenseman Ryan Constant found Reed at the point. Reed launched a shot that sailed through traffic and into the net, making it a one-goal game at 3-2 at the 12:23 mark.

Just 1:25 later, Garet Hunt took a pass from Constant at the point and sent a shot at the net. The puck zipped by Fallon and the Stockton Arena crowd erupted as the game was tied 3-3.

As the clock ticked down, Gibb dodged a Las Vegas defenseman and cut to the slot, sending the puck into the roof of the net. The crowd erupted in absolute euphoria as the Thunder, trailing by three goals just over twelve minutes of game time ago, had just earned a 4-3 lead 16:40 into the third period.

“I blacked out there.” Gibb said, “Next thing I know, we’re celebrating in front of the net. I just took the shot and put it on net. Good things happen. It’s not my role, but I’ll take it for sure.”

With Fallon pulled for an extra attacker late, Weller added an empty-netter with 21 seconds left to cap off the incredible, historical rally.

“It’s a good win.” said Hunt, “It feels great in here. We battled all game and everybody played their heart out. That’s what it takes. There was no time for talking; it was time for playing.”

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