The Creston Valley Thunder Cats are two points behind the Eddie Mountain Division’s fourth-place Columbia Valley Rockies after losses on Friday and Jan. 29.
The Jan. 29 loss to the Kimberley Dynamiters came three days after a 5-4 overtime defeat of the Spokane Braves, but the energy wasn’t there.
“It wasn’t our best effort,” said head coach Josh Hepditch. “We’ve played better games but we still put ourselves in a position to win.”
The Dynamiters had scored one goal by the end of the first period, but the second period was scoreless Thunder Cats Andrew Hodder (power play) and Trevor Hanna scored at 6:41 and 6:17, respectively. Two Dynamiters goals followed before Angus Johnston scored a power-play goal to tie the game 3-3.
The Thunder Cats edged past the Dynamiters with a third-period goal by Marcel Fuchs, but a Dynamiters goal at 5:06 sent the game into overtime. Despite a power play in overtime, the Thunder Cats couldn’t capitalize, and the Dynamiters won 5-4.
On Friday, the Thunder Cats “played a really, really good game” against the Fernie Ghostriders, Hepditch said.
After the first period, a goal by Hanna had the Thunder Cats down by one, and they stayed that way after power-play goals by Matti Jmaeff and Matthew Murray in the second period. Hanna scored on a power play at 14:34 in the third period, but a Dynamiters goal nearly five minutes later became the game-winner.
The result could have been different; three Thunder Cats goals were called back, including one scored with seven seconds left in the game.
“We can’t seem to catch that break,” said Hepditch. “We’re running out of time to count on luck. If we get three called back, we’ve got to find a way to get the next one.”
He credited goalie Zach Straza for the Thunder Cats doing as well as they did; he blocked 47 Fernie shots in that game.
With 64 points, Fernie is well ahead of the Thunder Cats in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League standings, and just four ahead of the Golden Rockets. The Kimberley Dynamiters are more or less in the middle of the pack, with 51.
This weekend (following a Tuesday game against the Columba Valley Rockies after press time), the Thunder Cats play three games, hosting the Kelowna Chiefs on Friday, visiting the Rockets on Saturday and hosting the Ghostriders on Sunday.
Hepditch said his players need to have a playoff mentality for the Thunder Cats to make up the two points between them and the Rockies.
“We’ve got find a way to get those two points or we’re in trouble,” he said. “We’re getting pretty close to a do or die situation.”
Even with four games left in the season, a chance at the playoffs still isn’t out of the question.
“It’s not going to be an easy weekend, that’s for sure,” Hepditch said. “Those are three extremely tough opponents. With the mindset we have right now and confidence building against these teams, anything can happen. We’ve proved we can play with the top teams in the league.”