KIJHL: Creston Valley Thunder Cats widen second-third gap in division

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Two weekend wins helped the Creston Valley Thunder Cats pull slightly farther ahead of the Fernie Ghostriders in the Kootenay international Junior Hockey League’s Eddie Mountain Division.

With 49 points, the Thunder Cats are in second place, three points ahead of the Ghostriders, but well behind the Kimberley Dynamiters’ 66 points.

The weekend’s first win (which followed a 6-1 loss in Kimberley on Jan. 5) started out slowly, with Creston giving up the lead to the visiting Castlegar Rebels in the first period.

“We came out pretty slow on Friday,” said head coach Jeff Dubois. “We didn’t do a real good job getting pucks to the net or forcing the play.”

Two minutes into the second period, the Rebels scored again.

“There really weren’t many signs of life at that point,” said Dubois. “As luck would have it, we actually reacted strong.”

Over the rest of the period, Colby Livingstone scored three times, once on a power play, and McConnell Kimmett scored once. Creston scored four more in the third period, with goals by Livingstone bookending one each by Marc-Antoine Gagnon and Tyler Severson.

“We really actually played some of our best hockey over the last 40 minutes of that game,” said Dubois of the 8-2 win. “When we’re at our best we’re a fast team, we’re aggressive. We move the puck to dangerous areas.”

For Creston’s Livingstone, who also assisted on Kimmett’s goal, that marked his last Junior B game in his hometown, having been picked up Sunday by a Junior A team, the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Canmore Eagles.

“It ended up being kind of fitting that Friday night was his last home game in front of home fans,” said Dubois.

On Saturday, the Thunder Cats scored first while visiting the Columbia Valley Rockies. Brett Witala’s goal was followed by two from the Invermere team, with Livingstone tying the game on a power play late in the period. A second-period goal by Kimmett gave Creston the lead, but three Rockies goals set Creston back 5-3 by the end of the period.

“We had a letdown where Columbia Valley scored three straight goals to close out the second,” said Dubois. “That was just a case of us making some mistakes with the puck, and not putting ourselves in a position to do the job offensively.”

Columbia Valley’s lead didn’t last long in the third period, with goals by Ian Desrosiers, Alec Wilkinson and Livingstone in the first six minutes, for a 6-5 win.

In that game, Witala, Livingstone and Wilkinson each earned three points.

“They kind of led the way for us offensively,” said Dubois.

And without the effort of goalie Brock Lefebvre, the outcome could have been quite different.

“In the third period, he made a couple of big saves to keep that lead for us,” said Dubois. “It was one of those games where we battled back and had a huge emotional lift off of scoring those three goals. It would have been a real letdown to not win that game.”

This weekend, the Thunder Cats host the Golden Rockets on Friday and the Rockies on Saturday, both of which could be tough. Golden, despite being at the bottom of the division with 11 points, is a “hardworking, hungry team,” and the Rockies are battling for a playoff position.

“I’m sure they’re looking forward to having a chance to give us one back on our rink,” said Dubois.

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