Lack of focus and lack of effort combined to create a disappointing weekend for the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, who lost two games and won one, and are now tied for fourth place in the Eddie Mountain Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The Thunder Cats ended a seven-game losing streak a week earlier, but a match against the Nelson Leafs resulted in a 6-2 defeat.
“The score really doesn’t reflect the game as a whole,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “We outshot them 34-22. We actually played a pretty good game.”
The Leafs started the scoring with a first-period goal, followed by one early in the second. Angus Johnston netted the Thunder Cats’ first on a power play at 14:36 — and then things started to go wrong, allowing the Leafs to score three more in nine minutes.
“We just had a stretch in the second where we lost focus,” said Hepditch. “Even the start of the second period was OK. It’s just in the second half we lost focus and they took full advantage of us.”
The Leafs scored their sixth goal in the third period, a minute before a power-play goal by Marcel Fuchs.
Hepditch hoped the well-played portions of the game would give the Thunder Cats some confidence, but it didn’t seem to be there the next night when the Thunder Cats hosted and lost 4-1 to the Columbia Valley Rockies, with whom they are now tied with 26 points.
“That was a poor effort,” he said. “I don’t know if we psyched ourselves out but we had a very poor performance.”
The game got off to a slow start, with the Rockies scoring twice in the first period, and the Thunder Cats managing far less shots than the night before.
“We only had 11 shots after two periods, which isn’t a good stat to have,” Hepditch said.
Trevor Hanna scored the Thunder Cats’ only goal in the second period, shorthanded with 2:28 remaining. The Rockies scored their third and fourth goals late in the third period.
The Thunder Cats rebounded on Sunday when they hosted the Summerland Steam, to whom they lost 5-4 in overtime during a November away game. The outcome was different this time, with the Thunder Cats earning a 4-2 victory.
“We couldn’t afford to lose those points again,” said Hepditch.
Brady Ward scored the Thunder Cats’ first goal less than nine minutes into the game, with Creston native Matti Jmaeff scored the team’s second on a power play at 19:04 in the second period. The Steam scored a single goal by the end of the second. The third period saw Andrew Hodder and Hanna each score, with the Steam answering with their second goal late in the game.
The win was a welcome one for the team, which is just about ready to take a Christmas break.
“We didn’t want to be going into Christmas in last place,” said Hepditch. “We wanted to get points back and found a way.”
The Thunder Cats’ final game before the break runs tonight in Golden, against the division-leading Rockets, who have 41 points, two and three points, respectively, ahead of the Fernie Ghostriders and Kimberley Dynamiters.
The Thunder Cats have had a tough time against the Rockets this season, with 2-1, 6-4 and 4-3 losses and a 7-3 win.
“We’ve had a couple really good games with them,” said Hepditch. “We compete well with them every night.”
And this time, he hopes the outcome will be in the Thunder Cats’ favour.
“Those are division points that we’ve got to find a way to start winning,” he said.