Third period collapse snaps Thunder’s six-game winning streak

Published 12:13 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

If Saturday’s game with Owatonna was a test to see where the Albert Lea Thunder stacked up against playoff teams, they might want to schedule a retake.

Albert Lea entered the game on the heels of a six-game winning streak, but against the Express a five-minute major penalty in the third period served as a reminder that the Thunder still have a ways to go to compete against the North American Hockey League’s playoff bound teams.

Playoff-bound Owatonna (31-22-4) scored twice during a five-minute power-play to ice Albert Lea 7-4 and kill any momentum the Thunder had going until then.

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Colton Warner received a game ejection after instigating a fight with nine minutes left to play and Albert Lea trailing 5-4. The Thunder also took a five-minute major during the scrap to give the Express an opportunity to put the game out of reach.

It didn’t take long for Owatonna’ power-play unit to strike. Charlie Thauwald scored 1 minute, 39 seconds into the power play to make it 6-4 and Cory Thorson added a goal less than two minutes later to help the Express secure the victory and snap Albert Lea’s six-game winning streak.

“Going into today I thought Owatonna would be a good indicator if we can hang with some teams that are in the playoffs,” said Thunder head coach Chuck Linkenheld. “But you can’t do it shorthanded.”

Thorson’s goal gave Owatonna its third power-play goal of the game and the Express had plenty of other opportunities on the power play. Albert Lea served nine penalties and gave Owatonna a 5-on-3 power-play goal to allow the Express to take a 4-1 lead just 2:12 into the second period.

The Thunder (18-32-5) rallied for three consecutive goals to cut it to a one-goal game. Matt Johnson scored on a penalty shot in the second period after he was taken down on a shorthanded breakaway. Johnson’s goal made it 4-2 and then a challenge from Linkenheld in between periods helped get Albert Lea going in the third.

“I told the guys at the end of the second period that we were playing a better team, a stronger team, a faster team and that’s what it looked like to me,” Linkenheld said. “Apparently I insulted them and they came out playing hard again in the third period, got it to 5 to 4, which based on how we were playing earlier in the game I was shocked myself.”

Albert Lea defenseman Derek Docken scored his fifth goal of the season on a shot from the blue line 2:14 into the third period and Niko Kapetanovic scored his 17th goal of the season from the back post at 7:31 to make it 5-4.

“All and all, if we didn’t have that penalty there I think we would have had a good chance to tie it at that time,” said Thunder forward Chris Cass. “We had the momentum. We scored two goals right away in the third period.”

Albert Lea didn’t lose any ground to North Iowa for fourth place in the division after the Outlaws fell to Bismarck 3-2 in Mason City.

With three games remaining the Thunder need to win one more game to secure the final playoff spot. North Iowa needs to win three of its final four games and have Albert Lea lose its final three games.

“It’s a tough feeling,” said Albert Lea forward Brian Nehring. “We kind of have it in our own hands right now. It’s up to us to win.”

North Iowa finishes a three-game series with Bismarck Sunday and faces Owatonna next Thursday and Alexandria Friday and Saturday to wrap up the regular season. The Thunder face Bismarck Friday and Saturday in Bismarck before returning home to play Alexandria in the regular season finale.

Owatonna 7, Albert Lea 4

Owatonna 3 1 3 — 7

Albert Lea 1 1 2 — 4

First Period—1, Albert Lea, Brett Meyers 6 (Chris Cass, Zach May), 6:45. 2, Owatonna, Brian McGinty 13 (Charlie Thauwald), 7:10. 3, Owatonna, John Haeg 3 (Chris Darnell, Ben Persian), 11:17. 4, Owatonna, Persian 7 (Darnell, Jake Suter), 18:52. Penalties—Dylan Porter, Owa (slashing), 4:20.

Second Period—5, Owatonna, Nick Widing 17 (Cory Thorson, Jake Suter), 2:12. 6, Albert Lea, Matt Johnson 3 (unassisted), 9:16 (psg. sh.). 7, Owatonna, McGinty 14 (unassisted), 10:37 (pp.). Penalties—Chris Cass, Alb (roughing), 1:26; Johnson, Alb (tripping), 1:50; Darnell, Owa, (charging), 5:20; Cass, Alb (holding stick), 9:07; Brandon Lubin, Alb (interference), 12:30; Colton Warner, Alb (high sticking), 17:05.

Third Period—8, Derek Docken 5 (May), 2:14 (pp.). 9, Niko Kapetanovic 17 (Alex Niestrom), 7:31. 10, Owatonna, Thauwald 3 (Marian Fiala, Jacob Sloat), 10:39 (pp.). 11, Owatonna, Thorson 24 (Dan Cecka, Sloat), 12:34 (pp.). Penalties—Blake Schammel, Owa (interference), 1:42; Lubin, Alb (holding), 3:56; Porter, Owa (roughing), 9:00; Zach Vierling, Owa (fighting, game ejection), 9:00; Colton Warner, Alb, major-game ejection (instigator, fighting), 9:00; McGinty, Owa (slashing), 15:18; Zack Smoot, Alb, misconduct (unsportsmanlike conduct), 17:59.

Shots on Goal—Owatonna 14-13-12—39. Albert Lea 6-10-13—29.

Power-play opportunities—Owatonna 2 of 7; Albert Lea 1 of 7.

Goalies—Owatonna, Matt Hemmingway 11-8-1 (29 shots-25 saves). Albert Lea, Joe Rogers 12-17-2 (39-33).

A—500. T—2:15.

Referee—Sterling Egan. Linesmen—Tommy Albindia, Mark Supina.