The Creston Valley Thunder Cats earned two victories over the Fernie Ghostriders on the weekend, helping them pull five points ahead of the Elk Valley team.
“It was definitely a big weekend,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “They’re right behind us in the standings and we wanted to try and get some separation there.”
With 16 points, the Thunder Cats now hold third place in the Eddie Mountain Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, sitting just one point behind the Columbia Valley Rockies and three behind the Kimberley Dynamiters.
The pair of wins followed an Oct. 15 6-4 loss to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, who hold third place in the Neil Murdoch Division. The game started off well, with the Thunder Cats leading 4-2 by the end of the first period — with goals by Brandon Formosa, Connor Kidd and Colby Livingstone (two) — but their lead didn’t last. The Nitehawks scored once in the second period, and added three more in the third.
“We put ourselves in a pretty good position to win,” said Hepditch. “Unfortunately, in the third period, we kind of let it slip away.”
Part of the reason, he said, is the number of young players on the team who are still learning the ropes.
“It took them a while to understand the confidence we have in our team,” he said. “We sat back and tried to hold on instead of initiating the pressure.”
That style changed on Friday, when the Thunder Cats hosted the Ghostriders for an 8-2 victory, scoring one goal in the first period, three in the second and four in the third.
“We started off good, but we got better as the game went on,” said Hepditch. “That was the sort of game that we consistently want to play. … We didn’t take our foot off the gas. We just kept playing our game.”
Maverick Lynes scored the first Thunder Cats goal at 7:15 on a first-period power play, for a score of 2-1. Jesse Collins and Trevor Hanna scored power-play goals in the second period, with Logan Styler adding his own at 3:51. Jesse Collins scored a shorthanded, unassisted goal at 19:32 in the third period, with power-play goals following from Livingstone (two) and Matthew Murray.
On Saturday, the Thunder Cats travelled to Fernie, where their hard work allowed them to match the Ghostriders goals and enter the third period tied.
“That was another one where we just consistently kept getting better,” said Hepditch.
Trevor Hanna scored twice for the Thunder Cats in the first period, at 9:30 and 9:02, for a score of 2-0. Kidd scored the Thunder Cats’ only goal in the second period, for a 3-3 tie heading in to the third. Kidd and Carson Cartwright started Creston’s third-period scoring before Fernie netted a fourth goal, and Connor Ward followed up with the Thunder Cats’ sixth.
After such hard work from Livingstone, Formosa and Collins the night before, Hepditch said he was pleased to see Ethan Rusnack, Styler and Kidd play their best game.
“We needed our other guys to step up,” he said. “It kind of proved the fact that we have some good depth on our team.”
This weekend, the Thunder Cats visit Golden on Friday, taking on the Rockets, currently in last place in the Eddie Mountain Division with nine points.
“They have some good players,” said Hepditch. “They had a rough start to the year, but they’re starting to play a lot better.”
On Saturday, they return home to host the Rockies, a game they have to be ready for.
“They’re ahead of us in the standings and even though we have games in hand on them, we have to find a way to get points,” said Hepditch.