The Stockton Thunder has had a lot to deal with as a team this week. Garet Hunt is serving game 1 of a 2 game suspension, and Jesse Gimblett is on game 3 of a 4 game suspension; goalie Tyson Sexsmith is out with a broken hand; Jason Pitton was called up to the Manitoba Moose; Jordan Bendfeld was called up to the Oklahoma City Barons; and today, goalie Bryan Pitton flew to OKC to back up Jeff Deslauriers.
That's a lot of adjustments to make in a short period of time, but such is the life of an ECHL team.
Tonight the Stockton Thunder was matched against the Idaho Steelheads-who also had their starting goalie, Tyler Beskorowany, recalled by the Texas Stars. In goal for this game was Garrett Zemlak for the Thunder and Michael Zacharias for the Steelheads.
It's easy to be nervous about a game like this. Defenseman Ryan Constant was moved up to the first line to play as a forward with Chris D'Alvise and Fraser Clair. Center Marcus Watson signed an Amateur Tryout Agreement with Stockton today. The emergency backup goalie to Tyson Sexsmith (who was moved to the 7-day IR), Garrett Zemlak would be starting in net. There's no time to get used to each other, no time to really accustom to the changes.
Well Coach Thomas is a smart man, and the impromptu team he put together did well tonight, defeating the Idaho Steelheads 3-2 in a shoot-out win. What we needed was for the rest of the Thunder to step-up huge, and they did.
Mark Arcobello, with an assist from Bretton Cameron, put the Thunder ahead 1-0 midway through the first period. Idaho tied up the score at 1 halfway through the second period with a goal from Kael Mouillierat. A powerplay goal by Bretton Cameron put the Thunder up 2-1 late in the second period. But in the third, with less than a minute left in the game, Idaho, who pulled the goalie for an extra attacker, tied the game at 2. The game went into the 5-minute overtime period, and then to a shoot-out.
Let's talk about Garrett Zemlak. I was really curious to see how he would play, having been thrown into this game as the starting goalie. But he was everything a fan could've asked for. He looked huge in net, he directed rebounds into the corners, he didn't overplay the puck, he made some nifty glove saves, helped kill a four minute high-sticking penalty late in the third period, and kept the Thunder in the game during the five minute overtime period.
And the shoot-out is where Zemlak shone. Anthony Aiello and Chris D'Alvise scored shoot-out goals for Stockton, and the only puck Idaho could get by Zemlak was shot by Marty Flichel. I love seeing the goalie ecstatic after a win, and Zemlak was no exception. There was a small crowd of 3,144 in attendance at Stockton Arena, but I hope Zemlak heard our cheers of appreciation. It was a thrilling victory, and I'm sure a lot of fans who have kept up with all the recent changes with the team were able to breathe once this game was over.
Stars of the game:
- Garrett Zemlak
- Bretton Cameron
- Mark Arcobello