With the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs less than two weeks away, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats still have a chance to pull ahead in the Eddie Mountain Division.
As of today, the Fernie Ghostriders had clinched the division with 71 points, with the Kimberley Dynamiters in second place with 59 and Creston in third with 56. The Golden Rockets followed with 47.
“Right now, we’re nine points up on Golden — a win for us or a loss for them locks us into third place at worst,” said head coach Jeff Dubois, who expected the second-third battle with the Dynamiters to come down to the wire.
The Thunder Cats earned three points on the weekend, with a 2-1 overtime loss to the visiting Dynamiters (whom they also host tonight) and a 4-2 victory over the Rockets.
Kimberley led the scoring on Friday with a first period goal at 12:57, made possible by a breakdown in Creston’s defensive zone. In the second period, the Thunder Cats “got a lot closer to doing what we want to do, which is be real strong on the forecheck,” said Dubois.
Ryley Bosman scored the Thunder Cats’ only goal at 0:32 when the puck bounced off another player in front of the net.
Creston lost its edge in the third period, Dubois said, with both goaltenders — Creston’s Brock Lefebvre and Kimberley’s Tyson Brouwer — keeping their teams in the game, ultimately stopping 34 Creston shots and 28 Kimberley shots.
“It was certainly a goaltenders’ duel,” said Dubois. “That’s what we’ve come to expect from Brock, and Brouwer is certainly one of the top goaltenders in our league.”
The game ended up going into double overtime, with a Kimberley goal at 1:54 securing their victory.
On Saturday, “The effort in Golden was about as flat as we’ve been in a while,” said Dubois.
The Rockets led the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period, with Carson Cartwright scoring his first goal a minute later. He scored again in the mid-second period, with the Rockets tying the score 2-2 at 6:15.
“I think we got pleased with ourselves a little too quickly, which has been a bit of a tendency,” said Dubois.
Cartwright earned a hat trick when he scored the game-winner at 6:55 in the third period, followed at 4:56 by Connor Kidd scoring his first goal since being on the injured list for three weeks.
Dubois again credited their goalie, this time Mitchell Martell, for keeping Creston in the game, particularly in the third period when they killed a lengthy five-on-three Golden power play.
“Mitchell made a number of high-end saves.”
The Thunder Cats have three games coming up in the next week as they make their way toward the season-closer on Feb. 14.
The Columbia Valley Rockies — trailing the Rockets with 26 points — host the Thunder Cats on Friday, a matchup they can’t underestimate.
“Columbia Valley has played us pretty tough, and certainly that’s been the case in their rink,” he said.
Creston will visit Golden on Saturday, but the weekend’s win won’t guarantee another one.
“Our feeling is we can beat any team anywhere when we’re putting in a full effort,” he said. “We seem to gauge our effort to what we perceive to be the quality of our opponent. The effort has to be there because the points are just as meaningful regardless of the opponent.”
On Tuesday, the Thunder Cats host Fernie. The game will be intense, Dubois said, with the Thunder Cats wanting to make up for an 8-2 loss last time.
“We’re wanting to redeem for a bit of a poor performance in January,” he said.