Outscoring opponents by only one goal over two home games isn’t usually a recipe for success, but it worked for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on the weekend, when they added three points to their division leading total.
Creston retains a two-point lead in the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain division after tying the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Friday and squeaking out a win over the Golden Rockets on Saturday.
For a change, the Cats did not score the game’s first goal on Friday, with Trey Mason giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead half way through the opening frame. But goals by Aiden Wong, from Tyler Severson and Dylan Kent, and Kyle Bergh, from Sebastian Kilcommons, had Creston in the lead by the period’s end.
Luke Kaleniuk, with help from Bergh and Kilcommons, stretched the lead to 3-1 but Grand Forks kept clawing back. Chad Grambo scored for the Bruins, Justen James responded for the Thunder Cats, with assists awarded to Thomas Cankovics and Kilcommons. Grambo’s second marker cut the Cats’ lead to 4-3 after two.
Mason notched the tying goal at the 10-minute mark of the final frame and Kilcommons put the Cats back in the lead 1:15 later, with an assist from McConnell Kimmett. Silas Johnson scored the game’s final goal, sending the match into overtime, but 10 minutes of play failed to provide a winner.
“We were good in the offensive zone and did well creating chances and finishing around the net,” Thunder Cat coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday. “Grand Forks is a good team with an excellent 20-year old goaltender and our offence put us in a position to earn a point.”
In a game that saw his team give up its most goals allowed in the young season, Dubois credited goaltending.
“We were sloppy defensively and put Brock in some tough situations,” he said. “It was a weird night with a couple goals against going off our sticks or bodies around our net, and we made things tougher on ourselves by giving up second and third chances rather than getting the puck out of our zone the first time.
“You don’t usually think of a goalie as having had a good night when he allows five goals, but Brock stood in and made some big saves to keep that from being a higher number. Sebastian Kilcommons was good at both ends of the ice and played big minutes for us.”
Even the penalty count was close, with Grand Forks taking 8 of the 15 minor penalties and 1 of 2 misconducts. Kilcommon’s 3-point night earned him star of the game honours.
On Saturday, the second of two home games, the Thunder Cats’ only two goals came in the first 12 minutes, but they were enough to earn a 2-1 victory over the Rockets.
Justen James opened the scoring 1:24 into the game, with assists going to Wong and Bryce Sturm. Kimmett doubled the lead with help from Bergh and Ronnie Wilkie.
After a scoreless second period, Jake Gudjonson finally broke through against the Cats’ Patrick Osterman with 5:52 remaining, but the Thunder Cats held on to close out the win.
Osterman stopped 20 of 21 shots for Creston, who fired 41 attempts at Golden’s game star, goalie Owen Sikkes. Kimmett was named the Thunder Cats’ game star.
“We talked after Friday’s game about working harder defensively and winning more battles in our zone, and the guys followed through on that,” Dubois said. “We limited Golden’s shots and opportunities and played much more of the game at their end of the ice.
“We would have liked a little more finish around their net, but their goaltender was excellent and robbed us on a few high quality chances. We had a few chances to put the game away in the second and third periods and instead let them hang around and make a game of it.”
The game-winning goal scorer and Osterman earned top marks from Dubois.
“McConnell Kimmett was physical, smart moving the puck, and he jumped up and scored the game-winning goal late in the first period. Patrick Ostermann gave us a very solid night in goal.”
With 16 of a possible 18 points after 9 games, Creston is off to the best start in the KIJHL. Summerland Steam also has 16 points, but it has taken them 11 games.
A balanced scoring attack continues to contribute the Thunder Cats’ early season success. Top scorers Bergh and Cankovic, with 11 points each, are looking up at 29 KIJHL scorers who have more points. Osterman has given up only 2 goals in his first two starts, and Lefebvre has a sparkling 2.30 goals against average in Creston’s other 7 games.
Creston hosts the Columbia Valley Rockies on Friday night and heads westward Saturday to take on the Castlegar Rebels.