After finishing the regular season in second place in their division, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats continued to prove their worth in the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs, winning four games of a possible seven-game series.
“It wasn’t as rough as we’re used to with Kimberley or Fernie,” said head coach Joe Martin. “Golden is a very offensive team. We had to kind of cover our tracks and make sure they didn’t beat us defensively.”
The Thunder Cats entered the first round of the Eddie Mountain Division playoffs last week, taking on Golden on Feb. 15 and 16 in Creston, with scores of 4-3 for Golden and 6-2 for Creston.
On Friday and Saturday, the Thunder Cats travelled to Golden, where they earned two 3-2 victories. On Sunday, they lost 5-4 to Golden, but defeated the Rockets 7-1 on Monday in Golden, ending the series after six games.
Martin praised the efforts of Kane Dawe, Brandon Formosa and Scott Swiston, who took on a lead role when the team’s captain went on the injured list.
“They’ve sparked the power play and stepped it up in the absence of Travis Ludwar, who broke his wrist in the first game of the series,” Martin said.
Of the 26 Thunder Cats goals in the series, nine were scored on power plays, which didn’t come as a surprise to the coach.
“We’ve been saying for a long time we’re pretty deep up front and we can handle it with one or two guys out.”
Tomorrow and Saturday, the Thunder Cats will head to Fernie for the first two games of the second round, which will determine the division champions for the 2010-2011 season. The division-leading Fernie Ghostriders beat the fourth-place Kimberley Dynamiters in four games in the first round.
“It’s kind of what we expected,” said Martin. “They’re a good offensive club, similar to Golden, a little better defensively than Golden, but a team we’re extremely confident with.”
The Thunder Cats will play in Creston on Monday and Tuesday, and if games 5, 6 and 7 are required, return to Fernie on March 3, then plan in Creston on March 4 and Fernie on March 5. All games are at 7:30 p.m.
Martin is hopeful that this season’s second round will be an improvement over 2010, when the Thunder Cats lost the series to Fernie, and feels that Fernie will have to step up their game to win.
“I feel our team is better this year, and I don’t think their team is as good,” said Martin. “I think we’re the favourite and Fernie has got to come to Creston and win a couple.”