The Stockton Thunder, who knocked the Alaska Aces out of the playoffs, dispatched the Idaho Steelheads 2-1 in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals tonight in California to earn their first trip to the Kelly Cup Finals, where they will meet the Reading Royals.
Stockton's line of Garet Hunt, Andrew Clark and Ryan Hayes accounted for both Thunder goals, including Clark's game-winning goal late in the second period. Hey, no flies on Stockton goaltender Olivier Roy, either -- he stopped 44 shots.
That Hunt-Clark-Hayes like is supposedly Stockton's third line, but its numbers look like the first line. Hayes (8-14--22 and +10 in 18 games) ranks first on the team goals and playoff points; Clark ranks second (7-11--18 and +3 in 17 matches); and Hunt, better known for his fighting, ranks fourth (3-9--12 and a team-best +11 in 18 games).
Combined, that line has produced 18-34--52 totals and a +24 rating in 18 games.
The Finals open next Saturday, the 18th, at Reading, which owns the home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series.