STOCKTON – The Alaska Aces used three goals in the third period to stave off a rally and playoff elimination, sending the Stockton Thunder to a 4-2 defeat in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals in front of 4,327 fans at Stockton Arena on Sunday.
The Thunder has another chance to knock out the top seed of the playoffs on Tuesday at Sullivan Arena. Game 6 is set for Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. (1360 AM KFIV/StocktonThunder.com) at Sullivan Arena.
“We knew they were going to play desperate.” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said, “I thought it was a great hockey game. Both teams played their hearts out. They earned a couple more bounces than we earned. It’s that simple.”
In Game 5, the Aces came back from down 1-0 with Zach Harrison leading the way with two points. In goal, Olivier Roy made 27 stops for the Thunder. Alaska’s Gerald Coleman made 23 saves.
Forwards Maxime Boisclair and Shawn Weller scored for the Thunder.
After a scoreless first period, the Thunder capitalized on the power play late in the second. Forward Eric Hunter won the puck along the boards, sliding it to forward Ryan Hayes behind the Alaska net. Hayes hit a streaking Boisclair at the left circle, where Boisclair buried the shot by Coleman for a 1-0 Thunder lead 18:19 into the middle frame.
Alaska was able to even the score when Nick Mazzolini picked up the puck in a wild scramble in front of the Thunder net and poked it by Roy with just one second left in the second period.
The Aces gained the lead after Alexandre Imbeault took Harrison’s pass in the slot and beat Roy glove side, making the score 2-1 6:26 into the third period.
Alex Hudson made it 3-1 with a wrist shot from the left circle that bounced off Roy’s glove and into the net at the 16:58 mark.
Weller brought the Thunder back within a goal at 3-2 with a slap shot from the left circle 18:23 into the third period.
Harrison sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 6.5 seconds remaining.
“I think we thought we were going to get it done, just like we’ve already gotten it done four or five times in the playoffs.” Weller said, “This team never gives up. We had a few chances, but that’s how it goes. We’ll be ready for Game 6.”
NOTES: The Thunder scratched Ryan Constant and Cameron Abney…the Aces outshot the Thunder 30-25…Evan Trupp had a goal overturned in the first period due to a high stick…Maxime Boisclair’s goal was the first Thunder power play goal of the series, having gone 0-19 previously…this was the first home loss for the Thunder …Shawn Weller broke a four-game goal drought … the Thunder fell to 5-3 when its opponents faced elimination.