The past three games have been a resurgence for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
After losing the first two games after the trade deadline, Creston has built up a three-game winning streak putting them in full control of their playoff destiny. They sit in the final playoff spot, five points behind third place, six up on fifth.
The important part isn’t that they’ve won these games, it’s how — with a complete and total team buy-in. There have been no power struggles or friction on the bench, just a simple approach. There’s a game plan, and then there’s the will to go execute it.
Head coach Nick Redding said it best after the Cats went all David vs. Goliath on the Kimberley Dynamiters. Creston surrendered a lead twice and went down 4-2 in the first period, but the mindset wasn’t on what went wrong, but rather what went right.
“We didn’t go in the tank, no one got negative on the bench, there was no finger pointing,” he said. “It was just all positivity and, ‘Let’s go, guys, and get after it.”
If there’s one thing they’ve done over these three games, it’s certainly “get after it.” What was once a group that looked to poke holes in the other team’s game plan is now controlling play from the drop of the puck.
Looking at the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff picture, it’s a little too early to start counting how many wins a team needs to secure a playoff spot, but it’s happening anyway. Assuming the Rockets run the table and win all of their remaining games, the Cats would have to win at least eight more games to stay ahead of them. That means that moving forward, every loss the Rockets suffer takes one win off the Cats’ magic number.
Six of the team’s 11 remaining games are against the top six teams in the league. They play the first-place Dynamiters twice, then Fernie (third), Kelowna (fourth), Beaver Valley (fifth), and Nelson (sixth). They haven’t played Kelowna yet, (39 games played, 26-10-2-1), and Beaver Valley has had their number in both games this season, but the Cats have beaten the rest of the teams they face at least once, proving they can play at that level.
Redding is more than aware of the fight the team has ahead of them, but knows his attention has to be on keeping the team focused on the next game and nothing more.
“You know it’s a good division — I’ve said it all year,” he said. “You could ask me [about the standings] in a week and a half and you just never know. For us it’s just about winning the next game in hand and playing good hockey, and worrying about everyone else later. It’s going to be a big push for our division. Playoffs start now.”
This weekend, the Cats are in Kimberley on Jan. 31 before returning home to host the Ghostriders Feb. 1.