Creston Valley Thunder Cat Jesse Collins during Wednesday's game at the John Bucyk Arena.

Creston Valley Thunder Cat Jesse Collins during Wednesday's game at the John Bucyk Arena.

Creston Valley Thunder Cats split first games of KIJHL Kootenay Conference finals

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  • Mar. 20, 2014 2:00 p.m.

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats split the first two games of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Kootenay Conference finals at the John Bucyk Arena, beating the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 5-4 on Tuesday but losing 6-3 last night.

Coming off an emotional game 7 win in the Eddie Mountain Division finals, the Thunder Cats took a bit of time to get into the series, which marks their first time as a contender for the conference title.

“We had to get back to reality,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “It’s a new series and a new start.”

The Thunder Cats still managed to control the game, except, he said, for part of the second period, with the first period’s only goal scored by Carson Cartwright, and goals by Brandon Formosa (power play) and Connor Ward leading the second period before the Nitehawks scored three.

Creston led the scoring in the third period with a goal by Ethan Rusnack, but the Nitehawks tied the game 4-4 with 9:17 remaining. Four minutes later, Creston native Matti Jmaeff scored the game-winner unassisted.

“They caused a turnover to get a breakaway,” said Hepditch. “It was good see him get rewarded.”

The Nitehawks led the scoring last night, putting the Thunder Cats behind 2-0 after the first period.

“They came out really hard and put us back on our heels at the start of the game,” said Hepditch. “We gave them good chances, and they took advantage of those chances.”

Formosa scored a single goal in the second period, and goaltender Kyle Michalovsky let in a third Beaver Valley goal at 0:49.

In the third period, the Nitehawks scored a fourth goal at 12:55, with no more goals until Formosa scored at 4:44. The Nitehawks scored a shorthanded goal soon after, and Logan Styler scored the Thunder Cats’ final goal on a power play at 2:31. Beaver Valley’s sixth goal was an empty-netter at 0:51.

With the exception of Styler’s third-period goal, the Thunder Cats had a hard time capitalizing on their seven power plays.

“It just seemed like we were a little behind the 8-ball all game,” said Hepditch. “We were not as sharp as we usually are.”

The play now moves from Creston to Fruitvale for games 3 and 4; the Thunder Cats will return to Creston for game 5 on Monday. (If necessary, game 6 will be in Fruitvale on Tuesday, and game 7 will be in Creston on Wednesday.)

“Now we’ve got to return the favour,” said Hepditch. “We’ve got to find a way to steal a game.

“It’s going to be tough. If we don’t bring our A game up there, we won’t get the result we’re looking for.”