The Creston Valley Thunder Cats remain in second place in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division following back-to-back wins over the third-place Fernie Ghostriders on the weekend.
Creston edged Fernie 2-1 in Saturday’s home game, but the 3-2 win on Friday in Fernie wasn’t the team’s best effort.
“We were probably lucky to take both points out of Fernie,” said head coach Jeff Dubois.
The teams were fairly evenly matched in the first period, but the Thunder Cats ran into some penalty trouble in the second. Despite that, Lien Miller-Jeannotte scored seven minutes in, and defenceman Sebastian Kilcommons scored a shorthanded goal with 15 seconds remaining.
“You would have thought it was a nice goal if a forward scored it,” said Dubois. “It was definitely an eye opener for the guys on the bench.”
In the third period, Thunder Cats goalie Brock Lefebvre stopped 18 of Fernie’s 20 shots, allowing the game to go into overtime.
“In stretches of the game where we were really pinned in our own zone, he kept battling and kept us in,” said Dubois. “In the third, we had a real rough twenty minutes in our own zone, probably the toughest period of the season in terms of getting outworked.”
The game went into double overtime, which ended with a goal by Alec Wilkinson, set up by Kilcommons.
“You can take the points and be happy with result, but realistically, it wasn’t our best effort,” said Dubois.
Saturday’s game, on the other hand, “was probably one of our stronger efforts of the season,” he said. “We kept the shots against low, we kept the chances against low.”
James Severs scored in the first period and Austin Steger scored in the second, with the Ghostriders adding their single goal on a third-period power play.
“[Severs] scored a goal from the top of the circle. It was just a blast of a wrist shot that not a lot of goalies stop.”
The Thunder Cats nearly managed a few more goals, as well.
“We hit a few posts and crossbars,” said Dubois. “Friday was one where we could have been even a little stronger on scoreboard — Friday night’s score flatters us and Saturday’s didn’t reflect how strong it was.”
The team effort was better on Saturday, with more support offered to Lefebvre.
“After making Brock do a lot of work on Friday night, I thought our defence was good in front of him on Saturday,” said Dubois.
He was particularly pleased with the effort of the line of Nicholas Kovacik, Dylan Hogue and Liam Plunkett.
“They did a great job playing against Fernie’s top players,” he said. “Even as a checking line whose job was to shut down the opponent’s skill, they spent a lot of the night in the defensive zone and gave us a lot of energy with their shifts.”
This weekend, Thunder Cats visit the Eddie Mountain Division’s fourth-place Columbia Valley Rockies on Friday (after hosting them for a Tuesday game), then host the Chase Heat on Saturday.
The Thunder Cats played the Rockies in late September, a tight game that resulted in a 3-1 Creston win.
“They’ve got some good skill and good size,” said Dubois. “They challenge you with their work ethic. … If that first game at home was any indication, they’re going to be tough opponents all year.”
Prior to Creston’s Tuesday game, the Thunder Cats and Heat each had 18 points, with Chase second in the Doug Birks Division.
“They’re a big powerful hardworking team that definitely comes to play and compete,” said Dubois. “We’ve had a chance to see them in their barn and know to expect a pretty challenging game.”