By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – The Thunder hopes its recent success at Stockton Arena can put the Las Vegas Wranglers in a deep hole.
After posting a losing record at home in the regular season, the Thunder has won 4 of 5 in the postseason at the arena, including the last two against the Wranglers. The Thunder hosts the fourth game of the best-of-seven series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a 2-1 lead after beating the Wranglers on Thursday.
Stockton will try to build its series advantage to 3-1 before going back to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Monday. If necessary, the sixth and seventh games would be on Tuesday and Wednesday at Orleans Arena.
“This is a huge game because you would rather be up 3-1 when we head back to Vegas,” Stockton forward Damian Surma said. “And we’re now playing well at home, doing the little things that make us successful.
“It’s fun playing here and having the fans come to the rink and watch us be successful.”
The Thunder was 16-18-2 at Stockton Arena in the regular season. Coach Matt Thomas has stressed the need to protect its home ice since he was hired on Dec. 29. Stockton was four games over .500 at the arena after he arrived.
“If anything, it’s even more important in this kind of series,” Thomas said. “We know as the lower seed that we have to win at least once on the road, so it’s so important to win your home games.”
The Thunder and Las Vegas also face the possibility of playing several games in a short period. Starting with Game 3, there could be five games in a seven-day span. Thomas said he probably would shorten practice as he did during periods of the regular season, but the players aren’t concerned.
“No, this is a lot of fun, and we’re playing good,” Thunder forward Garet Hunt said. “In the playoffs, you have that extra bit of excitement and you always want to come to the rink and play. So I don’t think it will matter if we play five in seven days, if that’s what it comes down to.”