Two strong efforts on the road have shown the Creston Valley Thunder Cats how good they can be when they play full 60-minute games, head coach Josh Hepditch said on Sunday.
“We played extremely well in both games,” Hepditch said. “I don’t think [Friday’s game] was a fluke. That’s what we can do if we really want to do it.
“We stuck to the game plan for 60 minutes and it wasn’t a complicated one.”
The Cats dominated Fernie from start to finish on Friday in a game marred only by a Matt Carr goal with 26 seconds remaining, ruining goaltender Tyler Moffat’s shot at a rare Kootenay International Junior Hockey League shutout. The goal was scored on a two-man advantage power play.
Creston jumped out to a quick three goal lead halfway through the first period. Joey Berget opened the scoring with assists from Brady Ward and Marcel Fuchs. Trevor Hanna then scored twice, the first on a helper from Jesse Collins and the second with assists going to Trevor Leblanc and Matti Jmaeff.
Darcy Flaherty’s unassisted effort gave the Cats a 4-0 lead in the middle frame and then Jmaeff scored from Jonathan Watt and Fuchs.
Tyler Akeroyd notched the Cats’ only third period goal, with assists awarded to Collins and Leblanc.
“Everyone played really well and Tyler Moffat had an extremely good game,” Hepditch said.
Creston didn’t have an emotional letdown after making the drive to Golden to take on the division-leading Rockets, but the offence could only come up with one goal despite outshooting their opponents 27-24, and 5-1 in the third period.
Golden’s Shane Rutherford opened the scoring nearly 16 minutes into the game on a power play opportunity. Angus Johnston tied the score less than two minutes later, with an assist from Jmaeff. But Creston was unable to put the puck in the net after that.
Golden’s James Price scored the winner halfway through the third period on the Rockets’ only shot of the final frame.
“It was a tough game to lose,” Hepditch said. “We did everything we had to do, except score. They had one good break in the third period and they took advantage of it.”
The loss, he said, left his players feeling “really frustrated”, but he hopes that two back-to-back solid efforts are a sign of things to come for the second half of the season.
The Thunder Cats have three more games on their schedule this week, following a New Year’s Eve game against Fernie, which they lost 3-2 in overtime. It will be followed up with a trip to the B.C. Interior, where the Cats play three games in three nights, against be the Osoyoos Coyotes, Princeton Posse and Penticton Lakers. The next home game is Jan. 12 against the Castlegar Rebels.