After a weekend loss by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats — and, conversely, two wins by the Fernie Ghostriders — the gap between second and third place in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division has narrow to a single point.
The Thunder Cats remain in second place with 51 points, one ahead of the Ghostriders, but 17 behind the division-leading Kimberley Dynamiters. The fourth-place Columbia Valley Rockies aren’t too far behind, with 46 points.
The weekend started out Creston hosting the Golden Rockets, a game that resulted in a 5-1 win for the Thunder Cats over the fifth-place Rockets, at the bottom of the Eddie Mountain Division with 11 points.
“It was a good effort,” said head coach Jeff Dubois. “They’re a hardworking team and we had to pick up our game to match that.”
Creston started the scoring with goals by Grant Iles and Tyler Severson in the first period, which was followed by a scoreless second.
The Thunder Cats were first to score in the third period, with Severson scoring on a power play just over 10 minutes in. Golden finally responded on a five-on-three power play three minutes later, with Jackson Bruce-Fuoco and Marc-Antoine Gagnon each scoring over the next two minutes.
Dubois was pleased by the scoring contribution by defencemen Severson, Bruce-Fuoco and Gagnon.
“When you get four goals in a game from your defense, that a sign that they’re jumping up and being aggressive and getting involved, and a sign that everyone’s working together,” he said.
He was also impressed by the debut of goalie Dawson Fennell, an 18-year-old from Edmonton, Alta.
“He played a really strong game, and just allowed the one power-play goal,” said Dubois.
On Saturday, the Thunder Cats hosted the Rockies in a game that saw the lead alternate a few times before the game resulted in a 5-4 loss for Creston.
“They were the more physical team and they were the guys that were first to the puck and winning battles,” said Dubois. “When you allow a road team to come in and do that to you on your home ice, it’s a pretty disappointing sign of the effort level.”
Creston’s Liam Plunkett was first to score, ten minutes into the first period, with a power-play goal by the Rockies tying to score less than three minutes later.
The Rockies pulled ahead with a goal just over a minute into the second period, with Creston goals by defenceman Sebastian Kilcommons and Brett Witala following in the next seven minutes. The Rockies tied the score with just over six minutes remaining in the period.
The Rockies retook the lead with an unassisted goal six minutes into the third period, with a goal by Creston defenceman Maverick Lynes tying the score 10 seconds later. The game-winner was scored by the Rockies with five minutes left in the game.
This weekend, the Thunder Cats start the first of four away games by visiting the Castlegar Rebels, whom they defeated 8-2 in a Jan. 8 home game.
“I expect going back into their rink on Friday night they’re going to be pretty we prepared to give us one back,” said Dubois. “They’re a real fast, offensive, up-tempo team. If we’re skating with them and working hard, it’s going to be a good game.”
The Thunder Cats continue by taking on the Golden Rockets on Saturday, their first visit there since a 5-3 loss in November.
“This is a chance for us to go back in there and make up for a couple of lost points,” said Dubois.