Three wins on the weekend — including their first shutout and first overtime win of the season — helped the Creston Valley Thunder Cats stay at the top of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division.
A 9-0 shutout of the Revelstoke Grizzlies and a rare 7-2 drubbing of the Spokane Braves were highlights in a weekend that started with a close call — a 5-4 overtime win over the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“It was not one of our best games,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “We definitely got off to a slow start.”
The Rockies scored three goals in the first period, which the visiting Thunder Cats responded to with two of their own, by Brandon Formosa (power play) and Jesse Collins, in the second period. Trevor Hanna and Ethan Rusnack (shorthanded) scored in the third period, but the Rockies’ Mitchell Rosko tied the score 4-4 with 2:39 left in regulation time. Collins scored the game-winner with 1:22 left in overtime.
“The guys were a little bit excited to go into overtime, but not really because they knew the game should have been won in regulation time,” said Hepditch.
On Saturday, the Thunder Cats hosted the Revelstoke Grizzlies, who currently sit at the bottom of the Doug Birks Division with 17 points. They had previously defeated the Grizzlies 11-2 in November, so “we just wanted to worry about our game and not really worry about them,” said Hepditch.
The game got off to a slow start, with no scoring in the first period, but Collins, Connor Kidd (unassisted) and Matti Jmaeff scored in the second. The third period saw the Thunder Cats add 22 more shots — for a game total of 49 — with goals scored by Nicholas Thompson, Carson Cartwright (at 13:24 and 3:21), Hanna, Marcel Fuchs (unassisted) and Tyler Podgorenko.
“We have four really good lines, and we can just roll four lines and everyone can score,” said Hepditch. “Even the defense were chipping in. It helps in a three-game weekend if we can keep everyone playing and not tire guys out.”
The game was a second shutout (his first was for the Kamloops Storm) for 17-year-old goaltender Kyle Michalovsky, who stopped 16 Grizzlies shots.
For the Thunder Cats’ third game in three days, they travelled south to take on the Spokane Braves, a notoriously difficult team to beat on their home ice.
In a game that was relatively disciplined for the Thunder Cats — they took four penalties and Spokane took 11 — Hanna and Cartwright scored in the first period for a 2-1 lead. Justin Post widened the gap with the second period’s only goal. In the third period, Kidd (at 16:0 and 12:09) and Seth Schmidt scored before a second Braves goal, which was followed by Hanna at 7:53 on a power play.
On Friday, the Rockies will visit Creston. The Rockies currently hold fourth place in the Eddie Mountain Division with 30 points — well behind the Thunder Cats’ 54 — and this game will mark the third consecutive Friday they’re taken on the Thunder Cats.
“We know where they stand and we stand,” said Hepditch. “We’re going to keep trying to play a good 60 minutes.”
On Saturday, the Thunder Cats will head to Kimberley, where they will take on the Dynamiters, who currently hold the division’s second place, one point ahead of the Fernie Ghostriders’ 42.
“They’re in second right behind us, so that’s going to be a big game,” said Hepditch. “It should be a good game, and we want to get two points and keep the spread we have now.”