After losing to the Kimberley Dynamiters in their season-opener, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats turned the tables on the weekend, beating them 5-4 in overtime on Saturday.
The win helped the Thunder Cats pull a little farther ahead in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division, although, with 11 points, the Creston team is still behind the Dynamiters, who, with 19 points, are tied for first with the Fernie Ghostriders. Behind Fernie are the Golden Rockets with 17 points, and the Columbia Valley Rockies trail the division with five.
It came as no surprise to the Thunder Cats that the game played on Kimberley’s big ice was a tough one.
“Based on the conversations I’ve had with other guys in the league, we fully expect them to be one of the top teams all the way through,” said head coach Jeff Dubois.
Saturday’s game started with two Kimberley goals before the halfway mark of the first period, with Carson Cartwright responding for the Thunder Cats at 5:02.
Connor Ward followed that with a goal at 12:34 in the second period, before the Dynamiters pulled ahead 4-2 with two goals.
“There were a couple times when we went down two goals and maybe sort of hit the brakes a little bit,” said Dubois.
Forty-three seconds before the period was over, Lien Miller-Jeannotte added a third goal for the Thunder Cats.
The third period was scoreless for 19 minutes, when Cartwright set up a goal for Ward, who scored shorthanded on the one-minute mark. He scored a hat trick and the game-winner at 3:14 in overtime.
The score, Dubois said, was “probably a bit of an unfair result to Kimberley,” who played well throughout, but Thunder Cats goalie Brock Lefebvre kept the Dynamiters from taking over late in the game.
“In a five-four game, you don’t immediately think of the goalie, but Brock made some saves in the third period where if they scored a fifth goal, that would be it for us,” he said.
The team was shorthanded, making the victory that much more impressive. Connor Kidd was injured early in the game and sat out the rest, and both Austin Steger and Alec Wilkinson, a new acquisition who scored 62 points as a rookie for the Nelson Leafs last season, were out sick.
This week, the Thunder Cats’ played a second game, visiting the Columbia Valley Rockies in Invermere on Tuesday, after the Advance’s press deadline.
On Friday, the Thunder Cats will host the North Okanagan Knights, to whom they previously lost 3-1 on a September road trip.
“It was a game we weren’t very happy with,” said Dubois. “We didn’t like the effort, so hopefully Friday night is a chance to make up for the one we let get away.”
On Saturday, the Thunder Cats will travel to the West Kootenay to take on the Beaver Valley Nighthawks, whom they beat in a pre-season exhibition game after losing four games in a row during the Kootenay Conference finals last season.
“There’s a little extra meaning because both teams were so good last year,” said Dubois. “Beaver Valley is a small, tight old barn and typically a very tough place to play. That one you circle on calendar a little bit. … You have to play a real simple, solid game in that rink to get a result.”