By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – Kenny MacAulay had one title quest end a few days ago, and he is joining the Thunder in Sin City to take up another.
The two-time ECHL All-Star defenseman will be added to the active roster when the Thunder visits the Las Vegas Wranglers at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Orleans Arena in the second game of the best-of-seven Pacific Division finals. Stockton leads the series 1-0.
Macaulay, 24, played earlier in the season for the Thunder but spent 40 games with the Portland (Maine) Pirates of the American Hockey League. The Pirates were eliminated from the AHL playoffs Friday by the Providence Bruins in five games. Thunder coach Matt Thomas put Macaulay on his playoff roster just in case he became available.
“It’s kind of a roller coaster. You think your season is over, and it’s kind of like you get a new life,” Macaulay said. “Anytime you get to go and compete for a title, it’s a great opportunity.”
It’s common for players to rejoin their ECHL teams in the playoffs after their AHL assignment ends. Defenseman Andrew Martens joined the Ontario Reign midway through its seven-game loss to the Thunder in the first round.
Thomas said Macaulay can only help Stockton.
“He’s not a guy you are going to see at the top of the list in scoring, but he is going to make a difference,” Thomas said. “He can make a play to spring one of your guys, set up the defense and you can use him to try to shut down the other team’s top forwards. He does it all.”
Thomas said he is happy with the Thunder’s defensive unit, which has been doing its job and adding a boost to the scoring. Robbie Bina, who had just two goals in 65 games combined between Stockton and Springfield of the AHL, has scored a goal in two consecutive playoff games. Cleve Kinley had eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight postseason games.
“These guys are playing their assignments well, and it’s always such a bonus when they can give you some extra offense,” Thomas said. “Bina has the two goals, and Cleve got the assist on one of those and has done a great job.”
Stockton forward Mike Lalonde, defenseman Matt O’Dette and goaltender Andrew Perugini did not make the trip to Las Vegas because of injuries. The Thunder returns home for games on Thursday and Saturday before three games in Las Vegas on May 4-6, if necessary. The Thunder cannot win the series without at least one win on the road.
“There’s no better time to do it than this stand-alone game in this unorthodox schedule,” Thomas said. “We really need to try to get this one.”