Friday night saw the Creston Valley Thunder Cats’ second away game of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s 2012-2013 season, which resulted in their first road win, after losing 3-2 in Kimberley on Sept. 15.
The Thunder Cats beat the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-1, after playing hard against the revitalized team, which has been near the bottom of the standings for a couple of years.
“They’ve got a pretty competitive team this year,” said head coach Josh Hepditch.
Newcomer Zach Straza was in goal for the Thunder Cats, and blocked 31 Border Bruins shots.
“He kept us in the game and gave us the chance to win,” said Hepditch.
He also had high praise for Darcy Flaherty, who scored the Thunder Cats’ first goal unassisted in the second period, and an unassisted, shorthanded empty-netter in the third.
Flaherty’s goals were followed by, respectively, goals by Brady Ward and Kevin Warwick, with Grand Forks’s only goal coming at the end of the second period.
Disciplinary issues — with slashing, hooking and crosschecking spread around the team, with a game misconduct by Scott Butters — allowed the team to practice some shorthanded play, with Grand Forks scoring once on 11 power plays.
“Our penalty kill was extremely good Friday night,” said Hepditch.
The winning didn’t last through Saturday’s home game, which the Thunder Cats lost 3-1 to the Nelson Leafs.
“It was not one of our best outings, that’s for sure,” said Hepditch. “We got outworked and outbattled in our own building.”
The only Thunder Cats goal was by Trevor Hanna in the mid-second period, although eight power plays provided other chances the team didn’t capitalize on. The Leafs held off scoring until the third period, when they netted three out of 19 shots on goalie Michael Hails.
“That was kind of a test for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t pass the test. They play a very good road game. We didn’t bring the effort we needed.”
This weekend, the Thunder Cats play three games, hosting the Columbia Valley Rockies on Friday and the Princeton Posse on Sunday, and travelling to Fernie to take on the Ghostriders on Saturday.
The first two are particularly important, with the Rockies leading the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain Division with seven points and the Ghostriders tied with the Thunder Cats with four. The Kimberley Dynamiters are just ahead with six, and the Golden Rockets have no points.
After those, the Thunder Cats play a third weekend game for the first time this season.
“Having Princeton be our third in three nights will be the test for us,” said Hepditch.