The Creston Valley Thunder Cats won one out of three games on the weekend, earning two points that kept them just ahead of last place in the Eddie Mountain Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
They won the final game of a three-game road trip, in which they lost to the Osoyoos Coyotes and Princeton Posse before beating the Penticton Lakers 4-2.
“We played extremely well,” said head coach Josh Hepditch of Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Osoyoos. “We had plenty of opportunities to score.”
After a scoreless first period, Jaiden Ward and Trevor Hanna scored for the Thunder Cats in the second, with the Coyotes matching their goals in the third, sending the game into overtime, which lasted just over three minutes before Coyote Garrett Kucher scored the game winner.
“We had a bad break at the end of the game,” said Hepditch. “The puck hopped over our defenceman’s stick and they went down and took advantage of it.”
Injuries, sickness and one suspension played a role in the game’s outcome.
“We were quite short on numbers, so it was a good effort, for sure,” he said.
In Princeton the following night, the Posse scored four goals in the first period, one in the second and one in the third before Trevor LeBlanc scored the Thunder Cats’ first on a power play at 15:48. The Posse scored their seventh on a power play, followed by the Thunder Cats’ second goal, also on a power play, scored by Tyler Akeroyd.
“We had a terrible first period and they took full advantage of it,” Hepditch said. “We came out to play and they really hammered us. … We had a disallowed goal in the second period that could have turned things around.”
It could have been worse, though, but goalie Zach Straza stopped 35 Princeton shots over the course of the game.
Sunday’s victory over the Penticton Lakers was an important one for the Thunder Cats — they now have 32 points, just two ahead of the Columbia Valley Rockies, who sit at the bottom of the division.
“Those were two points we really needed to get,” said Hepditch. “It was a really good character win by the guys in the lineup.”
Just 15 skaters suited up for the game, but after two Penticton goals in the first period, the Thunder Cats scored three times in the second period and once in the third, with Matti Jmaeff earning a hat trick.
“They gave everything they had left in their tank and found way to get two points for us,” said Hepditch.
This weekend, the Thunder Cats will take on the Castlegar Rebels — the second-ranked team in the Neil Murdoch Division — in Castlegar on Friday and Creston on Saturday.
“They’re a tough opponent,” said Hepditch. “We’re going have to play an extremely good game to compete with those guys.”
This late in the season, there is more on the line than simply winning — falling behind the Rockies now could ruin the Thunder Cats’ chances for post-season action.
“That’s going be an important weekend for us,” Hepditch said. “We need to get all the points we can get to stay in the playoff picture.”