Creston Valley Thunder Cats swept a home and home series against the Golden Rockets on the weekend, taking over sole possession of first place in the KIJHL.
Creston went into Golden, home of the Eddie Mountain Division’s last place team, on Friday night, and walked away with a convincing 7-1 win. On Saturday night, in front of a friendly hometown audience, the Thunder Cats squeaked out a 3-2 victory.
“We had a slow start on Friday but got better as the game went on and we had an excellent finish,” coach Jeff Dubois said on Sunday. “We’ve had a few sleepy third periods over the last few weeks, so it was good to see the guys step up and put an opponent away late in a game.”
Creston got off another first period lead, thanks to a pair of power play markers. Dylan Kent started the scoring at the 7:52 mark, with assists going to Justen James and Liam Plunkett. James scored less than three minutes later, with help from Grant Iles and Jake Livingstone.
Aiden Wong scored the only second period goal, with an assist gong to Kyle Bergh.
Berg put the Cats up 4-0 early in the third, but Bryce Mcdonald ruined Patrick Osterman’s bid for a shutout with 6:48 to play. Lien Miller Jeannotte (Topher Harding and Jonathan Lee) restored the four-goal lead 17 seconds later. James (unassisted) and Miller-Jeannotte (Luke Kaleniuk and Lee) each scored their second goal as the time wound down.
“We still have a lot of guys who haven’t played a ton of junior hockey and they’re still adjusting to our systems and what we need from them on the technical side of things, “Dubois said”. We had some stretches on Friday that show we have a ways to go and it’ll be a tough week of practice hammering away on some of those areas where we need to be better.”
He singled out Miller-Jeannotte, “who was dangerous all night and was rewarded with a couple of goals. He’s a guy who’s been giving a good effort every night and it’s nice to see him rewarded with some success offensively.”
A team that hasn’t suffered a loss in 13 games might get a little overconfident playing an over-matched team at home, but the coach was still disappointed with his team’s effort on Saturday.
“We picked up two points that we didn’t entirely deserve,” he said. “Sometimes you have an off night and it costs you in the standings, but we held it together when we had to and got the win.”
A pair of goals in the first 10 minutes by Logan Wullum (Liam Rycroft and Plunkett) and Lee gave the Thunder Cats the quick lead that usually builds momentum. But Mcdonald’s power play goal late in the period cut Creston’s lead in half.
The Rockets skated off the ice after 40 minutes of play with a 2-2, Brendan Sime-Vivian knotting the score.
It took a goal by James with 3:28 left in the final frame to restore Creston’s lead, and they made it stand up.
“There were stretches where we got outworked, I think because certain guys felt it was going to be easy,” Dubois noted. “Golden put themselves in a position to be in the game in the second and third periods and you could see the energy they drew from that, whereas we got back on our heels a bit and got away from playing our game.”
Two the Cats’ scorers earned the coach’s kudos.“Jonathan Lee brought a ton of energy and was buzzing all night. Justen James stepped up when we needed him and scored the game winner. He’s a rookie but he’s already shown a habit of coming through in big moments.”
Despite Creston’s hot start, the team holds only a narrow two-point lead over the Kimberley Dynamiters, who are off to an 11-2 start. Kimberley is the only team in the league challenging the Thunder Cats +41 goal differential. They sport a nifty +34, and have scored only two fewer goals after 13 games.
The Thunder Cats get a rare weekend at home to round out the month’s schedule. Beaver Valley Nitehawks are in town for a Friday night match and the Nelson Maple Leafs visit on Saturday. Those teams stand 1-2 in the Neil Murdoch Division.
With a strong pair of games last weekend rookie Justen James has squeaked into 20th place in league scoring. He has 17 points in only 11 games.