By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – The apprenticeship of Parker Van Buskirk continued on Friday.
And he made it clear: It’s not going to be easy to rattle this guy.
The Thunder’s rookie goalie gave up two early goals, saw a series of different screens and schemes, and faced a frantic assault of shots by the Las Vegas Wranglers in the final period. But he never panicked, and he’s still having a good time.
Veteran forward Cory Urquhart scored the Thunder’s first goal to start the comeback in the first period and made the game-winner in the third, and Van Buskirk had 35 saves to beat the Wranglers 4-3 in front of a crowd of 4,398 at Stockton Arena. The Thunder leads the best-of-seven ECHL Pacific Division final 1-0, with the second game scheduled for Monday in Las Vegas.
Van Buskirk has now played seven professional hockey games, five with the Thunder in the playoffs. The Wranglers did what they could to rattle him and scored twice in the first six minutes to put the Thunder behind.
“I just stayed focused and my teammates did a great job of giving me a clear view in front of the net,” Van Buskirk said. “They got in there and got rid of Vegas’ second and third chances after stops. That really helped.”
Urquhart, who has played in 56 playoffs contests and leads Stockton with eight goals this postseason, was impressed with Van Buskirk’s poise.
“We made two mistakes early to get behind, but (Van Buskirk) handled things well and everyone else stepped up,” Urquhart said.
It had three shots from close range with 12 minutes left that Van Buskirk turned away, and Chris St. Croix and Dan Reidel fired back-to-back attempts two minutes later that also failed.
The last decent chance came with 26 seconds left when Van Buskirk blocked a shot by Dan Spang.
“(Van Buskirk) played a good game,” Las Vegas assistant coach Mike McBain said. “It certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort from us or a lack of good opportunities.”
The Thunder had problems getting started until it staged a rally that sent Las Vegas goalie and former Stockton teammate Glenn Fisher to the bench after just 12:11 in the net. Urquhart started the uprising for the Thunder when he scored 9:22 into the period. The goal started a run of three goals in three minutes.
Huddy, who also had two assists, tied the game at 2-2 on assists from James Bates and Daryl Marcoux 1:17 after Urquhart’s goal, and Robbie Bina took the rebound off a shot from Cleve Kinley to give Stockton the lead. John DeCaro relieved Fisher and only allowed Urquhart’s game-winner in the third.