Dan Miller was in the house for Thunder's west coast tilt Tuesday nite at the 'shore, quick to point out the dangers of mentioning certain taboo things in a holiday game report, namely win streaks and being unbeaten in regulation. Well it seems Dan was right, the hockey gods have ruled, and Thunder no longer remains unbeaten in regulation, as they fell 3-1 to the Gates Chili Spartans in a hard fought battle that was tenser than a shopping mall parking lot on black friday.
First period saw play in both ends of the rink with the shots fairly even at 7-6 to the Spartans favor, but TYLER proved to be the difference, as Tyler Grimshaw wound up a slapper on the ice from the point just indside the blue line and Tyler Mattle got a piece of it for the redirect that would beat Spartan Senior netminder Matt Ryan for the 1-0 lead with four minutes to go in the frame. Cumming made a toe save and a beauty on a point blank chance for Gates. About the only other noteworthy item from the first fifteen minutes of play would be the number of times McSkillet dropped his mouthguard. I lost count at ten, cuz i was not about to start using my toes. At one point it seemed as if Mike dropped his piece in the middle of his breakaway on purpose to try and throw Ryan off but it was to no avail.
Second stanza saw Thunder shorthanded for almost half a period as Gates pelted Cumming with rocks and garbage from every imaginably angle. One was a low shot that quickly changed plane from a deflection but Ian was equal to the task. He made a couple of timely poke checks to shut down the Spartans' breakaway bids and helped out the D by handling the puck outside his crease. Mattle and Grimmy returned the favor putting on a Harry show to help Ian out as well. Watching the onslaught, I felt a bit like Sam the snowman from Rudolph (narrated by Burle Ives)... wake me when its over!
Well, thanks to some gritty team defense, Thunder did manage to weather the storm and get out of the inning. Despite getting outshot 10-5 in the second (17-11 through two periods), Thunder enjoyed a 1-0 lead going into the final 15 minutes of play and held onto that lead until the 5.22 mark when the dam finally broke after Ian made a brilliant save on the front door batting a point blank chance away with his purse. The puck somehow made its way out front for Steve Castner who would sweep it into the gaping right side of the net and the Spartans suddenly had new life. Assists were awarded to Brendan Christopher and Bryan Carville on the equalizer. Three and a half mins later John Mosca sniped one under the cross bar from outside for the go ahead goal that would prove to be the winner for Gates, also assisted by Brendan Christopher. You might think that was the straw that broke the camel's back, but Thunder mushed on for another minute of hard work trying to get a bounce and exercised their TO option at the 45 second mark. They returned 6 skaters to the ice but it was simply not meant to be, as Castner got loose and split the posts for the empty netter assisted by Mosca with 23 seconds to go. Pretty sure that was the straw. Time to tip your hats to the Spartans for a hard fought battle as they outshot Thunder 25-18 and earned their 2-points. No doubt a tough loss for the Thunder but a great game for the fans to watch!
First star goes to Gates forward John Mosca who netted the game winner and added an assist on the ENG that iced the game. Second star goes to Gates forward Steve Castner with a pair of goals. Third star goes to Ian Cumming who stood on his head for 40 minutes to keep his team in the game, with a total of 22 saves including about a dozen brilliant ones. Honorable mention goes out to the Tylers (Mattle and Grimshaw) for sacrificing their bodies for the good of the team and in particular to Tyler Grimshaw for his diving poke-check to thwart a Spartan breakaway chance early in the third. Thunder's record slides to 4-1-1-1 with the loss. Time to get your lunch pails and go back to work boys!
Thunder will host Pittsford tonite, 6-Jan, at Lakeshore. Be there or miss out on the opportunity to see Shane Briganti go through the spanking machine. Happy Birthday old man!