The Creston Valley Thunder Cats continue undefeated after three weeks of KIJHL action with two weekend wins against Fernie.
The Thunder Cats jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead at home on Friday night, then held on for a 6-4 win over the Ghostriders.
“We’ve been focusing on good starts to games and Friday night we scored four times in the first period and really set the pace of the game,” coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday.
Once again a balanced scoring attack worked in the Cat’ favour. McConnell Kimmett, Julian Benner, Liam Plunkett and Lien Miller-Jeanotte scored in the first period, in which the home team racked up 20 shots on goal.
“We took the four-goal lead for granted and opened the door for Fernie to get back into the game in the second and third. We were weak around our net and made a couple of defensive zone turnovers that ended up in our net.”
Fernie made it 4-1 with a goal by Mike Dyck earlier in period two, but Justen James restored the four-goal lead with a power play marker.
The Ghostriders made it a game by scoring three consecutive goals in the third period. Mitch Titus, Tayler Sincennes and Justin Peers—with only 2:07 left—picked up goals before Grant Iles iced the close game with an unassisted goal.
Goaltender Brock Lefebvre stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced for his fourth win of the young season. It was a cleanly played affair, with Creston picking four of the game’s seven minor penalties.
In the close win, Creston welcomed a newcomer.
“Justen James has been a dynamic offensive guy since he arrived back from a Junior A camp, and he scored his first KIJHL goal and had a three-point night,” Dubois said. “Guys like Liam Plunkett, Thomas Cankovic and Grant Iles have been real leaders for us early on and all three stepped up when we needed them.”
With the close loss on the road, the Ghostriders were no doubt looking for revenge back in Fernie on Saturday night in what turned out to be a penalty-filled, one-sided tilt.
“It’s tough to pinpoint an area we weren’t happy with,” Dubois said about the return match. The Ghostriders, who ended up on the short end of an 8-2 score, would not likely argue.
In what can only be described “as complete an effort from a Thunder Cats team as I’ve seen in a long time” Kyle Bergh opened and closed the scoring, with six different teammates notching the other goals.
Bergh, Stratton Pickett and Alden Wong put Creston in a 3-0 lead after one, and Thomas Cankovic, Plunkett and Luke Kaleniuk helped double the lead after the middle frame.
Miller-Jeannotte scored six minutes into the third before Fernie finally got on the board with goals by Sincennes and Titus. Berg’s second goal was a power play effort that iced the game, and the weekend, for the Cats.
“We came out hard, played a smart road game and took advantage of the offensive opportunities we created,” Dubois said. “We played fast and tightened up some of the defensive lapses that cost us the night before. Fernie is always a tough place to win games but there wasn’t much doubt that we earned the two points.”
One player stood out in Dubois’ mind.
“Luke Kalenuik had been really sick through the week and nobody would have looked twice if he sat out, but he dressed and gave us a good performance. He scored his first goal as a T-Cat and it was a real nice one. You like to see guys getting rewarded like that.”
And while the forwards filled the net, the team’s rearguard also gets credit, he said.
“Our whole group of defencemen continues to do the job at both ends of the ice; they combined for seven points and were strong moving the puck.”
In the team’s six 2016-17 season games, the Cats are averaging nearly four goals more than their opponents. But with a balanced scoring attack, they boast only one player in the league’s top 20 scorers. Cankovic is listed as number 16 on the list with four goals and five assists. Osoyoos Coyotes are the only other undefeated team, with a 5-0 record.
Sitting in top spot in the Eddie Mountain Division, the Thunder Cats have only one game coming up before the Thanksgiving long weekend. They visit Kimberley on Saturday night to take on the Dynamiters, who had a 4-1 record after weekend games, and sit four points behind Creston in the standings, good enough for second place in the division.