Thunder Cats split games as season’s end nears

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The Creston Valley Thunder Cats gather in front of their net during Saturday’s home game against the Kimberley Dynamiters.

Spirits were high at Friday’s game between the Creston Valley Thunder Cats and the Fernie Ghostriders — perhaps a little too high. Four players and head coach Joe Martin received suspensions due to the numbers of fight in the game, which resulted in an 8-2 loss for the Thunder Cats.

“The last few times we played Fernie, they tried to be physically dominant by jumping a few of our players,” said Martin. “Our players had had enough. They went up with the plan that they were going to fight back and not just suck it up for the team.”

By the end of the game, the Thunder Cats had earned 32 penalty minutes, with Kane Dawe and Jordan Johnson each suspended for one game, goalie Weston Joseph suspended for two and Borck Ward suspended for three. For his players taking part in more than three fights in a game, Martin will sit out the next four games.

The Ghostriders led the scoring with two first-period goals, followed by a Thunder Cats goal by Brandon Formosa. With seven seconds left in the first period, the Ghostriders managed a third goal, which would become the game winner.

The second period opened with two early Ghostriders goals, before Cody Antos scored the final Thunder Cats goal with nine minutes left. Three Ghostriders goals were notched in the third period; the Thunder Cats manged only four shots in that period, for a total of 18 shots in the game.

The abundant penalties made it possible for Fernie to score five power-play goals — Creston was scoreless on two power plays — but when those aren’t counted, it was actually a close 3-2 game.

“The score’s a little bit inflated due to the way the game was played,” said Martin. “So it was another tight game with Fernie.”

Assistant coaches Garth Ludwar and Geromy Piva were behind the bench the following night, when the Kimberley Dynamiters visited the John Bucyk Arena.

And with four Thunder Cats suspended from that game, Martin had the opportunity to watch other players step up — albeit from the stands.

“I got to see everybody’s performance and measure how we were doing, and I was quite happy,” he said.

He was also pleased by the performance of local minor hockey players Jackson Hawton and Seth Schmidt, who filled in a couple of gaps.

“They’re good players and hopefully they’ll be playing for the Thunder Cats one day,” he said.

Despite making only 10 shots in the first period, the Thunder Cats dominated first-period scoring, with goals by Alexander Jmaeff, Ryan Hewitt, Jovi Fabbri and Travis Ludwar bringing the score to 4-2.

Both teams scored a goal each in the second and third periods, with Steven Casselman and Cody Antos making power-play goals, for a final score of 6-4.

This weekend, the Thunder Cats play their final games of the season, hosting the Nelson Leafs on Friday before travelling to Nelson on Saturday. With Nelson locked in second place in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Neil Murdoch Division, and with the Thunder Cat securely in second in the Eddie Mountain Division, “it means nothing for both teams,” said Martin.

“At the same time, no one likes losing, and you like to measure yourself against good teams in other divisions. … You want to have good hockey heading into the playoffs.”

The first two playoff games for Creston run on Monday and Tuesday, when the Golden Rockets visit. Games 3 and 4 will be held in Golden on Feb. 17 and 18, with game 5 (if necessary) in Creston on Feb. 19.

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