The Creston Valley Thunder Cats are now tied for last place in the Eddie Mountain Division after winning two games on the weekend, beating the Golden Rockets 5-4 and Penticton Lakers 4-3 in overtime.
And with nine games left until the end of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, that’s what head coach Josh Hepditch hopes will keep happening.
“It’s been a while since we could string a few together,” he said. “But with our division being so tight, we’ve got to get on a roll and keep it going. It’s right down to the wire.”
On Friday, the Thunder Cats hosted the Golden Rockets for a game that started out well, with goals by Matthew Murray and Jesse Collins tying the score 2-2 after the first period.
“[Murray] really stepped it up in the first period and got the guys going,” said Hepditch.
Angus Johnston, assisted by linemates Ty Kronewitt and Matti Jmaeff, scored twice in the second to give the Thunder Cats a 4-2 lead.
“Two goals in one shift was a huge energy boost for us,” said Hepditch.
The boost didn’t last, though, and the Rockets scored twice in the third period, tying the score to send the game into overtime, which lasted two minutes before Andrew Hodder scored on a power play.
“I give full credit to our players for staying with it and battling and finding a way to get that extra point,” Hepditch said.
Sunday’s home game against the Penticton Lakers had a slow start, with the Lakers scoring three goals before Marcel Fuchs scored one for the Thunder Cats late in the second period. Angus Johnston and Ty Kronewitt scored in the third period to tie the score 3-3.
“We showed some character and battled back to get into overtime,” said Hepditch.
After two minutes of overtime, the Thunder Cats won the game with a goal by Trevor Hanna.
The return of Jesse Collins, who had been out for weeks with an upper body injury, played a big part in the weekend’s wins.
“He provided some good leadership and offense,” said Hepditch.
On Friday, the Thunder Cats will visit the Fernie Ghostriders, who they beat 6-1 on the road and lost 3-2 in double overtime last month. The Ghostriders lead the Eddie Mountain Division with 57 points, one ahead of the Rockets, who are followed by the Kimberley Dynamiters with 45 and the Thunder Cats and Columbia Valley Rockies with 36.
“It‘s going to be another bit of a test for us,” said Hepditch. “They’re fighting for first and we’re fighting for every point we can get.”
The Spokane Braves will visit the next night, and although they have fewer points than the Creston team, the Thunder Cats have to stay on guard.
“We don’t want to fall in trap of thinking of them as a lower-place team,” said Hepditch.