Creston Valley Thunder Cats lost a chance to extend their league lead by posting a win and loss on the weekend.
The week’s action actually started on Thursday, though when the team picked up the KIJHL’s leading scorer, Paxton Malone, from Spokane. Creston also added defenseman Nick Darling from the Revelstoke Grizzlies. Malone, with 47 points, promises to bolster an already strong scoring lineup.
Things started well at home on Friday, when Creston hosted the Castlegar Rebels, handing the Neil Murdoch Division’s second place team a 4-1 loss.
“We showed a lot more jam and resolve in this game than we did when Castlegar beat us in our rink a couple weeks ago,” coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday. “It was good to see the guys rebound from that effort and fix the issues that led to the loss. We went back to being the faster, hungrier team and it paid off.”
Grant Iles got the home team off to a 1-0 lead when he scored with 7:48 left in the first period on assists from Luke Kalenuik and Sebastian Kilcommons. Andrew Petten hit the twine to tie the game less than a minute later.
The game took an ugly turn in the last two minutes of the first, when Justin Podgorenko connected with a head shot on Jonathan Lee, who was kept immobile on the ice by trainers. The game had a lengthy delay until an ambulance arrived to transport the 19-year-old to hospital. Podgorenko got a 5-minute major and 10-minute conduct for making head contact with his elbow.
“Jonathan Lee was caught by a pretty dirty hit and there was a lengthy delay while he was attended to and eventually taken to hospital by ambulance. That’s tough to see, especially for his teammates, and I was really proud of how the guys got right back on track for the remaining 40 minutes and made sure we didn’t let that situation get the best of us.”
Red hot Brodie Smith scored as the ensuing power play neared its end early in the second period, with assists awarded to Julian Benner and McConnell Kimmett. Benner put Creston up 3-1 to enter the second intermission. Thomas Cankovic and Ronnie Wilkins were given assists.
Kilcommons scored the game’s final goal at 13:39 of the third period, a short-handed effort from Kimmett and goaltender Brock Lefebvre.
Lefebvre was solid in goal, stopping 26 shots.
“Brock Lefebvre was outstanding in goal and our whole defensive group played a strong game in front of him,” Dubois said.
On the same night, Fernie Ghostriders were doing a solid for their Creston rivals, dealing the second place Kimberley Dynamiters a 5-3 loss on the strength of four unanswered third period goals.
Creston couldn’t take advantage of the Ghostriders’ gift, though. The Cats drove west to Nelson to take on the fourth place Leafs and took a 4-2 loss in a penalty-filled game.
“We regrouped after a poor first period and got ourselves back in the game, but it wasn’t enough,” the coach said. “We need to be a little smarter making adjustments mid-game and I take the responsibility for that. We got outplayed in some areas that are usually strengths for us.”
Creston never held the lead, and Nelson scored on the power play late in the first period, with Jack Karran earning the goal.
Colum Mcgaulley put his team up by two in the second before newcomer Malone gave Creston life with a power play goal from Benner and Cankovic.
In the third period, Alex Meeker restored the Leafs’ two-goal lead before another Thunder Cat power play marker once again narrowed the margin. James scored the goal and Kimmett and Tyler Severson earned assists.
That was as close as the Cats would come though, and Andy Fitzpatrick’s empty netter with 29 seconds left sealed the deal.
Goalie Patrick Osterman returned to the club and took his first loss of the season after earning five wins. He stopped 25 of 28 shots he faced.
“It was great to see Paxton Malone contribute right away and score his first goal in a Thunder Cats jersey. And we had a few guys battling injuries who stepped up and fought through some pain. “
Also on Saturday night, Kimberley took back the two points in the standings they had given up the night before, by winning at home against the Columbia Valley Rockies. The Dynamiters now sit 6 points behind Creston with a game in hand.
The Thunder Cats face a tough test this weekend when they host Kimberley on Friday night and then go to Fruitvale on Saturday to take on the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, one of the KIJHL’s strongest teams this year. The Nitehawks have only four losses this season and sit with 38 points. That’s four points behind Creston, but Beaver Valley has three games in hand.
Creston also plays next Tuesday, travelling to Invermere to take on the Columbia Valley Rockies.