We’re Back! (Video)

Announcing that their Southern rivalry was back on, the Dunedin Thunder shut out the Southern Stampede 4-0.  Danny Lee was outstanding in goal, turning aside 50 shots for the home side and Greg Wilson scored a brace as the Thunder rode a strong second period to their first win of the season.

The Dunedin Thunder were looking to bounce back after a pair of opening season losses to the West Auckland Admirals as they took on South Island rival Southern Stampede at Dunedin Ice Stadium on 17 June.

In the opening games, the Thunder played a physical style, but defensive miscues were their undoing as the more experienced Admirals took advantage of their opportunities.  Head Coach Matt Hladun said: “The message for this week was to focus on playing smarter hockey and playing a full 60 minutes. We saw first-hand how quick things can change last week, and some of the more experienced teams will take advantage when we give them the opportunity. However, we also saw that when we play to our potential, we are a good team and can play with any team in the league.”

Danny Lee got the start in goal for the Thunder, while the Stampede countered with Aston Brookes.

An early defensive miscue by forced a sensational glove save by Lee and some physical play by the Thunder forced a double minor penalty on Bert Haines for tripping and cross-checking at 3:05. The Thunder took a while to get going on the man-advantage and eventually forced some saves from Brookes, but the Thunder couldn’t get the opener.

Another Stampede penalty to Mulder for interference gave the Thunder another power-play chance, but they could not take advantage.  The Thunder demonstrated good puck control but seemed hesitant to shoot.

The game opened up after the teams returned to even-strength with chances coming at either end, the best of which was a glorious chance by Orr on a nice feed from Heyd, but Brookes was up to the task.

The last minute of the period saw good chances at either end of the ice, but neither side could bend the twine and the period ended 0-0.  The Thunder started slowly but seemed to grow more confident as the period went on.  Both sides will have thought they were unlucky not to score. Shots in the period were 14 for Stampede and 11 for Thunder.

The Thunder were trying to turn around their fortunes in the second period.  In the previous two games, the middle frame had been their undoing, so they were hoping to get off to a good start and build on some late momentum from the first period.

And the Thunder did just that.  After starting slowly, a poor change by the Stampede led to a breakaway for import Greg Wilson.  Wilson had all day to beat Brookes and didn’t miss, going high to the glove side to beat Brookes and gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead at 1:25.   This seemed to boost their confidence as the Thunder forced some further chances.

The Thunder doubled their lead on a goal-mouth scramble by Kevin Jagau.  Wilson did well to get keep the puck alive in the zone and some hard work got them a deserved goal at 8:39.

The Stampede had a chance to get back into the game with a power-play following a holding penalty on Regan Wilson.   However, they couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity and the Thunder were able to kill off the penalty.

Shortly after they were back to even-strength the Thunder stretched their lead to 3-0 on a nice goal by Tristan Darling after some hard work by Jagau to keep the puck alive at 15:49.

The period ended with the Stampede taking a late penalty on McIntosh for abusing the officials at 19:05, but the Thunder could not put the game out of reach.

It was a terrific period for the Thunder, who put together their best stretch of hockey of the season.  In addition to the goals, Lee made several outstanding saves for the home side, who would be trying to carry the momentum over to the final frame.   Shots in the period were 14 for the Stampede and 11 for the Thunder.

The Thunder leant heavily on their top two lines over the first two periods and they would need to dig deep to hold on against the Stampede, who would be looking to get back into the game quickly.

The Thunder started the third period with the continuation of the power-play, but could not take advantage.

The Thunder stretched their lead on a highlight reel goal from Greg Wilson.  He beautifully fed the puck from his skates, put a move on the defender and put his second of the night in the top corner at 2:18.   It was as pretty a goal as you will see in this league and phenomenal piece of skill from the import, who really imposed himself on the game.

At this point, the Stampede seemed to realise their moribund Southern rivalry was back on.  They increased their physicality and tempo and forced several fantastic saves from Lee, who stood on his head all night long.

The Stampede had a chance to get back in the game on a 5 on 3.  Following a slashing penalty on Darling and a delay of game penalty on Lee.   For the first minute of the two-man advantage, the Stampede forced several saves from Lee, but the best chance came on a break away from Heyd, which was saved by Brookes.   However, the Stampede couldn’t get a goal to get back in the game.

The game finished with some chippy play, with both netminders being knocked over.  However, the Thunder were able to finish the game and preserve the shutout.  Shots in the third period were 22 for the Stampede and 5 for the Thunder.

The Stampede will look to bounce back Sunday at 4PM when the two sides play the second game of their two-game series.

Match Report by Richard Audas