BY ERIC BLOW
It wasn’t a picture-perfect game, and there were moments of unrest, but in the end the Creston Valley Thunder Cats were able to score the last goal of Saturday’s game against the Grand Forks Border Bruins and pick up their first victory, a 5-4 win, of 2020.
The teams traded a pair of first-period goals, and it started off in the Bruins’ favour when they converted on a power play less than five minutes in. The Thunder Cats would answer back strongly, with two goals just 33 seconds apart. Connor Scammell followed a bouncing puck into the slot and made no mistake looking at a wide-open cage to put the Cats on the board. Benjamin Kruse followed up Scammell’s goal by putting the puck on goal from the side, and somehow it found its way into the back of the net.
The biggest story of the first was the injury to goaltender Justin Faiella who looked to make a routine save at around the four-minute mark, but got tied up reaching for the puck and went to the ice. After a lengthy conversation with the Creston trainer, he decided he could go on. The Bruins would capitalize on the injured goaltender, adding their second goal in the dying minutes and tying the game 2-2.
Faiella wasn’t in net to start the second period as he was too injured, so the Cats turned to Riley O’Laney, who hadn’t played since Dec. 31. The only goal in the second went to the opposition. Grand Forks took control in the middle frame, outshooting the Cats and eventually taking the lead at 12:41.
The third started in dramatic fashion when a Bruins player covered the puck with his hand in the crease, giving the Cats a penalty shot to tie the game less than a minute in. Captain Andrew Clark took it and made a good attempt trying to move the Bruins goalie right to left, but was denied. Exactly one minute after the penalty shot, the Cats gave up a goal to the Bruins captain, making it 4-2. It wasn’t the start they wanted, and the game looked like it might become out of reach, but the Cats thrive when their backs are against the wall, and they kept throwing everything they had at Grand Forks.
Out of the 18 shots they put on net, the first one they converted on was a Derek Green power-play goal at 14:14. A laser from the point found its way to the net and the Cats were within one. He wasn’t done there, and as the Cats scrambled to put pressure on Grand Forks, Green played hero and tied the game with the extra attacker on the ice and 1:24 to go.
Overtime was eventful as the Cats couldn’t convert on a power play, and then had to kill off a penalty of their own. Finally, with 1:32 to go in the last overtime period, Scammell, who scored the first goal of the game, dug the puck free from underneath a Bruins payer who had gone down to block a Clark shot attempt, and fired a quick wrister into the back of the net.
The win keeps the Cats afloat in the playoff picture, four points ahead of Golden Rockets, and seven back of the Columbia Valley Rockies, who happen to be the Cats’ next opponent. Columbia Valley comes to town on Jan. 24 (a game with free admission, courtesy of Mountain Spring Holdings), followed by the Kimberley Dynamiters on Jan. 25.