The Creston Valley Thunder Cats kicked off the new year with two wins in which they outscored their opponents 12-1.
The T-Cats’ 7-1 win at home on Friday over the Columbia Valley Rockies was followed by a 5-0 shutout of the Fernie Ghostriders in Sparwood on Saturday night.
“We played a very complete hockey game against the Rockies – we didn’t stray from the game plan and it was great to see that everyone was buying in together,” Thunder Cat head coach Brad Tobin said on Sunday. “It seemed that we were feeding off great plays in the defensive zone, that being blocking a season high number of shots, clearing pucks quickly from the front of the net and having a fast moving breakout up the ice.
“I thought the line of Austin Canete between Carson Small and Dawson McGuire played very well, playing a physical brand of hockey and making simple plays led to success.”
Justen James’ opening pair of goals stood up to help the T-Cats roll to vicotry. James’ first goal was assisted by Mitchell Wolfe and Liam Plunket, while Plunkett and Callum McGhee earned helpers on the ultimate game winner. Tyler Witzke (Conor Monaghan and Ronnie Wilkie) scored on the power play to put Creston up 3-0 after 20 minutes.
Brayden Jellis (Carson Small) and Plunkett (Wilkie and Jack McCardle) sandwiched scores around Hunter Beckett’s marker in the second period.
Wilkie (Wolfe and Kason Furukawa) and Monaghan (Witzke and Plunkett) finished off the scoring in the final frame.
Creston outshot the Rockies 39-31 and starter Levi Mitchell was named the Home Star.
On Saturday evening Sam Burford made his first start in goal for the Thunder Cats and came away with a shutout against the Ghostriders, stopping 30 shuts.
“We acquired Sam Burford from the Nelson Leafs on Thursday. He was able to arrive in town that day and be on the ice for practice leading up into the weekend,” Tobin said. “Unfortunately we had to release Jaysen MacLean from the roster. We appreciate what Jaysen did during his time as a Thunder Cat and wish nothing but the best for him in his junior career.”
After a scoreless first period, Aiden Wong (Monaghan and McGhee) opened the scoring 1:32 into the middle frame, and then Ronnie Wilkie (Plunkett and Dylan Rantucci, and James and Rantucci) added a pair to give the visitors a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Monaghan (Witzke and Wong) and Wong (Jellis and Bryce Sturm), with his second of the game, finished off the scoring in the third period.
Wong earned Away Star honors for his 3-point effort.
“For our team it was more of the same story as the Friday game, we were playing for each other and creating opportunities for teammates in the offensive zone,” Tobin said. “Sam Burford got his first start for the Thunder Cats in this game. He played a very good game and was a calming presence in net with his rebound control and ability to find shots through traffic. He made a unbelievable highlight reel save late in the third period to give him his first career shutout.
“I’m very proud of how the team has been playing since coming back from the holiday break. I told the players to appreciate and understand why we’ve had the success we have in the past three games.”
Creston now sits 7 points behind Eddie Mountain Division-leading Kimberley Dynamiters after 34 games. The Dynamiters took a rare loss in Nelson on Saturday night, getting shutout 3-0 by the Leafs.
After weekend play, Plunkett is tied with Castlegar’s Edward Lindsey for the KIJHL scoring lead, with each having 62 points. Ronnie Wilkie has 59 points and sits alone in 3rd place and Justen James’ 50 points is good for 5th place.
While 5 teams have more points than the Thunder Cats, only the Castlegar Rebels have a better plus-minus record. The Cats have scored 68 goals more than they have given up and the Rebels are now +80.
Creston was scheduled to play the Rockets in Golden on Tuesday night.