The Stockton Thunder couldn’t quite put a happy ending on what turned out to be a storybook run through the ECHL’s Kelly Cup playoffs.
After a playoff drive that included nine come-from-behind victories and a record-tying five overtime wins, the Thunder finally ran out of magic and fell to the Reading (PA) Royals in the 2013 Kelly Cup Final. The Royals won the Cup by beating the Thunder four games to one in the best-of-seven championship series, which ended in Stockton on May 25.
“It’s a shame that a group that played so well and did so much that nobody expected them to do didn’t get a chance to be champions when it was all said and done,” Thunder Coach Matt Thomas told local media in the aftermath of Reading’s 6-0 victory in the Cup-clinching game. “I think that’s what is most upsetting.”
The Thunder, the No. 4 seed in the ECHL’s Western Conference entering the playoffs, certainly made a memorable run at the Cup before coming up just short. Stockton opened the playoffs by eliminating the Las Vegas Wranglers in a wild seven-game series in which the home team won each game. The Thunder then upset the regular-season champion Alaska Aces in six games in the second round before knocking off the Idaho Steelheads in five games to capture the Western Conference title for the first time in franchise history.
“People have got to be proud of these guys,” Thomas said after the Cup finale. “We were underdogs the whole way. We were out, and we gave our fans so much to be proud of.”
Ryan Hayes paced the Thunder offensively during the playoffs by recording 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) to rank second in the league in post-season scoring. Andrew Clark (seven goals, 14 assists) and Harrison Reed (nine goals, 11 assists) were close behind with 21 and 20 points, respectively, and goalie Olivier Roy earned 12 playoff victories before being injured in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Final.
Plans call for the Thunder to celebrate the team’s Western Conference championship by hanging a banner at Stockton Arena to commemorate the feat during the home opener next season.