By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – Garet Hunt realizes the Stockton Thunder is going to put up quite a battle if it intends to advance in the postseason.
But he has no problem fighting to get what he wants in professional hockey.
Hunt has helped the Thunder with his gritty play and fists throughout the season, and has improved his offensive abilities in the playoffs. Stockton plays the Las Vegas Wranglers at 7:30 p.m. at Orleans Arena in the fifth game of the best-of-seven ECHL Pacific Division finals.
The series is tied at 2-2, but the unorthodox schedule has the final three games in Las Vegas. The Thunder has to win 2 of 3 games in a building where it hasn’t won all season.
“It will be tough, but the playoffs are tough,” Hunt said.
“It’s not easy. We just have to scratch and claw for everything we can get.”
Hunt, a 21-year-old rookie from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, who is 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, had 22 fights and a team-high 248 penalty minutes in the regular season. He also had five goals in 63 games.
Hunt has scored three times in 10 postseason games, and each was created because he’s not shy about skating toward the net.
He scored in the first round against Ontario on a wraparound from behind the net and worked his way inside to deflect a shot by Ryan Huddy into the goal against Las Vegas in Thursday’s 5-1 Stockton win. In the 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday, Hunt again got close to the crease and scored just before doing a belly flop across the ice.
“Garet Hunt is a playoff-caliber player, and he shows up every single night and brings us energy,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said.
Energy will be important in Las Vegas, and the Wranglers are cautious despite the upcoming home games.
“We definitely have the home-ice advantage, but they are a skilled hockey team,” Las Vegas forward Mick Lawrence said. “They are do or die, just like us. So we have to keep the pressure on.”
Hunt hopes it’s the Thunder that applies the pressure.
“In the playoffs, work ethic usually wins,” Hunt said.