By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – Cory Urquhart has his own way of doing things. For the past few years, it’s been the winning way.
Urquhart has played on championship teams the past two seasons and has been one of the Thunder’s most productive players during its current postseason run. Stockton plays host to the Las Vegas Wranglers at 7 p.m. Thursday at Stockton Arena in Game 3 of the best-of-seven ECHL Pacific Division finals, which are tied 1-1.
Urquhart has been Stockton’s leading playoff scorer and its resident expert on winning titles. He also has his own style, on and off the ice.
“It is the playoffs, and sometimes guys get a little too high or a little too low,” Urquhart said. “But the bottom line is this is the same game we’ve played all year. So just play your game. Be yourself.”
Urquhart made a personal decision entering the post-season, growing a mustache instead of the traditional playoff beard many players prefer. He said he has worn a beard in the past but decided to try a moustache this year. It’s worked so far. The Thunder beat Ontario in the divisional semi-finals in seven games.
“I’m stuck with it now,” Urquhart said.
Urquhart said some of his teammates have joked with him about his choice of facial hair, but forward James Bates was hesitant to question the grooming habits of a two-time champion.
“What can you say?” Bates said. “He’s a veteran, he can do what he wants.”
What he really wants is another title.
Urquhart was a member of the 2007 American Hockey League champion Hamilton (Ontario) Bulldogs, and the Arizona Sun Dogs during their 2008 Central Hockey League championship run.
Urquhart was not a front-line player at Hamilton, but he led the Sun Dogs with 17 goals in 18 playoff games. He has eight goals and four assists in nine playoff games with the Thunder.
“In the playoffs, you need your leading goal scorers to score goals for you consistently,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “That puts some pressure on those guys, but that’s what happens in the playoffs. And Cory is a player who has always thrived on that pressure.”
Stockton forward Ryan Huddy said the team has responded to Urquhart’s advice during the playoffs.
“It seems every game that he steps up and says something that guys calm down and realize there’s still a lot of hockey to play,” Huddy said.
Urquhart said a concern entering Game 3 is the Wranglers’ penchant for getting an early edge. Las Vegas opened a 2-0 lead in Game 1 on Friday, but the Thunder came back to win 4-3. It couldn’t overcome the Wranglers’ early three-goal advantage on Monday in a 4-2 loss.
“You never want to come from behind,” Urquhart said. “We’ve had to do that a few times.
“That’s definitely something we want to stop. That’s not a hole you want to dig for yourself.”