Creston Valley Thunder Cats beat Grand Forks 9-3, Golden 7-3

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Creston Valley Thunder Cat Andrew Johnston (20) evades a Grand Forks player as teammate Matthew Sonntag looks on.

Creston Valley Thunder Cat Andrew Johnston (20) evades a Grand Forks player as teammate Matthew Sonntag looks on.

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats earned two wins at home on the weekend, beating the Grand Forks Border Bruins 9-3 and the Golden Rockets 7-3.

Sunday’s victory over the Rockets was particularly sweet, as it followed a 2-1 loss in Golden on Friday.

“We had our chances,” said Thunder Cats head coach Josh Hepditch. “Unfortunately, a goal was called back in the third period. We were right there and just couldn’t find a way to get that extra goal.”

He said the teams were well matched in an “even-keel game” that saw two Golden goals in the second period.

Two returning players — Creston’s Matti Jmaeff, who started on the Nelson Leafs this season, and Jesse Collins — gave the Thunder Cats their only goal early in the third period, with Collins scoring and Jmaeff assisting.

“They made an instant impression on the team,” Hepditch said.

The Thunder Cats played in Creston on Saturday, taking on the Border Bruins (whom they beat 4-1 in September). Although the visitors are a more competitive team this season than in previous years, the Thunder Cats outshot the Border Bruins 49-29, with 10 Thunder Cats earning points that night.

There was no scoring in the first period, but goals by Trevor LeBlanc, Trevor Hanna, Brady Ward, Joey Berget, Collins and Marcel Fuchs, gave the Thunder Cats a five-goal lead by the end of the second.

The Border Bruins started third-period scoring with an early goal, but Hanna scored the Thunder Cats’ seventh less than two minutes later. After another goal by Grand Forks, Collins and Hanna each scored, with Hanna earning a second hat trick in as many weekends.

“Saturday was finally the breakout game we were looking for — we exploded for one game, which was nice to see,” said Hepditch, who added that he was impressed with the line of Collins, Hanna and Colby Livingstone, who earned 12 points between them.

Sunday’s win over the Golden Rockets was much needed, as the Thunder Cats now sit three points behind them, with 14, in the standings for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division. The Kimberley Dynamiters and Fernie Ghostriders lead with, respectively, 20 and 19 points, and the Columbia Valley Rockies are a point behind the Thunder Cats with 13.

“The guys were ready to go and they stuck to the game plan all game,” said Hepditch.

There was no scoring in the first period, but Jmaeff scored early in the second, with two Rockets goals following about one and 10 minutes later. The third period saw a big change with Kevin Warwick (two), Collins (two), Angus Johnston and Andrew Hodder scoring, while the Rockets managed only one more goal.

The Thunder Cats stay at home this weekend, the team’s first parents weekend, to host the Osoyoos Coyotes on Friday and the Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday.

The Coyotes are at the top of Okanagan Division with 24 points, which could make for a tough game, but Hepditch is most looking forward to seeing the Thunder Cats take on the Dynamiters.

“It’s going to be a good measuring stick for us,” he said. “And obviously, Kimberley’s had our number in the last couple games, so we’re going to have another crack at them.”