After tying for last place in their division a week ago, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats pulled a point ahead of the Columbia Valley Rockies when they beat the Spokane Braves 5-4 on Saturday, a day after losing 4-2 to the Fernie Ghostriders.
“We played a really good game,” said head coach Josh Hepditch of Friday loss on the road. “We outshot them 36-27, we were leading two-nothing after 40 minutes and put ourselves in a good spot to win.”
The Thunder Cats started the scoring with goals by Matthew Murray and Ryan Murray in the first period, which led to a scoreless second. In the third period, players kept in the penalty box too long for minor penalties kept the Thunder Cats from scoring, but the Ghostriders scored four times, three during power plays.
“We battled to the end and tried our best but unfortunately came up shorthanded,” said Hepditch.
He gave credit to goalie Zach Straza, who has been playing well while Tyler Moffatt is out with an injury, and Ryan Murray, who earned two points for a goal and an assist.
“He’s been playing well since he came back from Christmas,” Hepditch said.
The next night, the Thunder Cats hosted the Spokane Braves, who scored three goals — two on a power play and one shorthanded — in the first nine minutes.
“We had one of our inconsistent starts,” said Hepditch. “We were down three-nothing before we knew it.”
The Thunder Cats followed the Braves’ three with power-play goals by Connor Kidd and Tyler Akeroyd. Both teams scored once in the second period, with Trevor Hanna netting a power-play goal at 0:46, and Matti Jmaeff tied the score 4-4 with a goal at 11:34 in the third period.
It took until the second overtime period for the outcome to be decided. Jesse Collins faked a pass to Jmaeff, which the Braves goalie fell for, then pulled the puck back and took a shot.
“It was a pretty nifty move,” said Hepditch. “It’s not one that many players could think to try in overtime, especially double overtime, but he tried and it worked out.”
With the end of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s regular season looming, Hepditch is preparing for some big games ahead.
A Tuesday game in Kimberley (which took place after press time) would see the Thunder Cats take on the Eddie Mountain Division’s third-place Dynamiters, who were 11 points ahead of the Thunder Cats.
On Friday, the Thunder Cats play at home, hosting the Fernie Ghostriders who are at the top of the Eddie Mountain Division with 60 points, two ahead of the Golden Rockets. The Thunder Cats beat Fernie 6-1 in December, and have lost twice since.
“The last three games have been competitive games,” said Hepditch. “When they are fighting for first place, it’s not going to come easy.”
And on Tuesday, the Thunder Cats host the Columbia Valley Rockies, who will be struggling for fourth place and a playoff spot.
“Columbia Valley is going to be a four-point game, one that really could make or break the final stretch,” said Hepditch. “But you don’t want to look too far ahead, you want to look at the task at hand.”