After disappointing 4-3 and 15-5 losses the previous weekend, the Thunder Cats bounced back this weekend with 5-1 and 7-1 wins over, respectively, the Golden Rockets and Columbia Valley Rockies.
“We came out confident and positive and obviously stayed with our game plan,” head coach Brent Heaven said of Friday’s home game against the Rockets. “Realistically, the game that happened the week before was not at all the game we play.”
The Thunder Cats’ defence kept the Rockets’ goals to a minimum, and new goalie Tyler Moffatt blocked 22 of 23 shots.
His performance was a highlight of the game, along with the return of Thunder Cats veteran Brandon Formosa, now in a line with Jesse Collins and Jovi Fabbri.
“They’re going to be a lot of fun to watch this year,” said Heaven. “They already have good chemistry and they’ve only been together four or five days.”
Each of the three scored in Friday’s game — Formosa in the first period, Collins and Fabbri in the third — as did Jordan Johnson in the first period and Jaiden Ward in the third, all before the Rockets’ Keith Wake scored his team’s only goal.
The story was similar on Saturday, when the Thunder Cats visited Invermere to take on the Rockies, earning a 7-1 victory. Two goals by Johnson and one by Formosa got the first period off to a promising start.
“I obviously felt fairly confident we could win if we played that game,” said Heaven.
His confidence was well-founded — the Thunder Cats scored four more goals in the second period. The first three were by Ward, Tre Potskin and Trevor Hanna — followed by one from the Rockies’ Spencer Johnston — before Johnson scored the game’s final goal with 59 seconds left in the period.
Heaven was uneasy about the scoreless third period, which showed a weak spot.
“The only concern I had was the third period,” he said. “We kind of laid off a bit. I think the biggest thing with us is working on playing a full 60 minutes of hockey.”
In both games, however, he was pleased that the Thunder Cats kept their opponents’ shots on goal low, outshooting the Rockets 35-23 and the Rockies 35-18.
“If you do that, you’ll win more games than you lose,” Heaven said. “It’s all about playing our game. When you’re forced into playing another team’s systems, that’s when you get in trouble.”
On Friday, the Thunder Cats will host the Fernie Ghostriders, who currently lead the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division with eight points. The Kimberley Dynamiters and Golden Rockets follow with six and five points, respectively, while the Thunder Cats have 4. The Rockies bring up the rear with no wins and five losses.
“It should definitely be an entertaining game,” said Heaven. “Hopefully, the boys will come out ready to compete.”
The Thunder Cats travel to Nelson on Saturday to take on the Nelson Leafs, who lead the Neil Murdoch Division with seven points. Heaven said scoring may be a bit tougher against Nelson’s goalie, Andrew Walton, whom he coached on the Castlegar Rebels from 2007-2010 — although Thunder Cats should be playing their best regardless.
“Every team that we play against, we’re going to have to compete,” he said. “There’s not going to be too many nights we can take the night off and still get two points. …
“It’s all about building an identity, and focusing on what we do best. We’ll force the other teams to play us, rather than us playing them.”