Creston Valley Thunder Cats coach spent season ‘trying to build a team to win’

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Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Columbia Valley Rockies marked the end of a rocky season for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, who finished the season at the bottom of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division.

The team started the season in a difficult position, with nine out of 10 top scorers of the 2011-2012 season not returning. But the newcomers learned quickly and “we had a pretty strong hockey team,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “It was unfortunate that we dug such a deep hole that we couldn’t get out of it and get into the playoffs.”

A lot of the Thunder Cats losses were by a single goal, and frequent injuries kept the team from playing to its full potential — although their games were still good ones.

“I can’t think of any game that would have been embarrassing to watch,” said Hepditch. “We were competitive and did the best we can do.”

Despite the performance that saw the Thunder Cats finish in last place, with the Fernie Ghostriders (74 points), Golden Rockets (69) and Kimberley Dynamiters (53) claiming the top three spots in the division, Hepditch believes the Thunder Cats will be a force to be reckoned with next season.

“I wanted to prove to the guys that what we have could be a very good team,” he said. “We’re trying to build a team to win. I think we took some strides in right direction this year.

“We could return 13 of our top 14 scorers this year. That’s a major bonus. That would be one of the positives to take out of the season.”

The prospect of an excellent 2013-2014 season will make the difficult parts of this season worth it, for both the players and for their rookie coach.

“I told the guys before they left that I really appreciate everything they did this season because I’m sure they had some frustrations with my first season coaching, as well,” he said. “We went through ups and downs together.”

But even with those downs, it was all worth it.

“You get the joy and satisfaction of seeing kids improve and meet their goals in a short season,” Hepditch said. “Even though we weren’t winning every night, we enjoyed coming to the rink.”