Long Beach looked flat in the first period, and were outshot through the game nearly 3 to 1, something like 38 to 13. Stockton skated faster, played a very good puck-control, aggressive game, and never really let up. Their best player, Mike Lalonde, scored a goal and assisted on another, on his birthday.
We went to a couple Thunder games last year, and I was impressed with how disorganized their play was. This year is completely different, perhaps because most of the team was overhauled (in third-tier pro hockey, there's a pretty high level of turnover in personnel, as you might expect). A couple of their defensemen were notably good, one for being solid, big, in position, and good at making opposing players sit down suddenly (Tim O'Connell), the other for being very smart and moving the puck well but not being big enough to make all of his ideas become realities (Jeff Lang). But Lauren and I were most impressed tonight with Liam Reddox, all 5-10 180 pounds of him, because he has attributes we both adore in hockey players - speed, aggression, and (Lauren's particular proclivity) diminutiveness.
Fun stuff. We were three rows behind the team benches, at exactly center ice (my seat straddled where the red line would be). $16 seats - nearly the most expensive. Yep, I go all out, spare no expense. When we go again, we're going to try for seats one or two rows behind where we were, to get a slightly higher perspective on play.