Forget the 155-goal plus/minus goal differential. The Creston Valley Thunder Cats learned on Friday night there is a reason why games are played on the ice, and not on paper.
The Eddie Mountain Division’s fourth-place Columbia Valley Rockies, with only 23 points after 36 games, rolled into Creston on Friday night and proved to be unphased by a team that now sits 33 points above them in the standings. They handed Creston a 6-4 loss.
To the disappointment of more than 300 fans, the loss also came at the expense of first-string goaltender Brock Lefebvre, who was between the pipes after more than a month on the injury list.
“We can’t underestimate any of the teams in our division, we need to come into every game with the focus and preparation to have a 60 minute effort,” assistant coach/general manager Brad Tobin said on Sunday. “Hand it to the Rockies, they came in prepared and their goalie some key saves.”
Tobin was behind the bench for weekend games to allow head coach Jeff Dubois to scout the KIJHL Prospects Game.
The Rockies jumped out to a two-goal lead on scores by Chase Hawkins and Colby Sherlock before Thomas Cankovic (Ronnie Wilkie and Julian Benner) put the T-Cats on the board. Mike Dyck restored the Columbia Valley lead, but Creston roared back to tie the game before the first period came to an end. Austin Anselmo (Aiden Wong and Justen James) scored, and McConnell Kimmett bulged the twine with a buzzer-beating power-play goal that was assisted by Wilkie.
Columbia Valley got another three-goal effort in the second period, but Creston couldn’t get anything past goalie Ken Kelsch. Tyler Bordt, Brayden Barker and Hawkins scored for the Rockies.
Anselmo’s second goal, from Cankovic and Wilkie, was the only score in the final period.
Tobin said there were positive takeaways from the loss.
“The penalty kill went 4 for 4 on the night, and we fired 49 shots at the Rockies net,” he said. “I thought Julian Benner had a strong game at centre. He was creating chances using his speed off the rush and doing a good job of using his strength to gain positioning around the goalmouth.”
The weekend didn’t get a whole lot easier when Creston travelled to Kimberley to take on the always tough Dynamiters, but the Thunder Cats skated off with two points, stretching their division lead to three points over the host team.
“We had a full 60-minute effort on the road in Kimberley,” Tobin said. “It was great seeing the team play for each other in a big game that had big implications on the Eddie Mountain Division.”
A power play effort from Liam Plunkett (Sebastian Kilcommons and Tyler Severson) was the only goal in the opening period.
James Farmer tied the game 1:19 into the second frame, but another power play goal, this time from Benner (Wilkie and Arcuri) restored the lead, only to see George Bertola erase it.
Despite being outshot 11-8, Creston got three goals in the third, the final two into an empty net. Jonathan Lee scored from James and Anselmo at the 12:18 mark, and then Arcuri and Kilcommons (Luke Kalenuik and Kimmett) erased any hope of a Kimberley comeback.
Patrick Ostermann backstopped the Thunder Cats to the win, turning aside all but two of the 33 shots he faced. Cody Campbell stopped 32 of the 35 shots Creston put in his direction.
“Ostermann had a strong performance between the pipes, made some big saves throughout the game,” Tobin commented. “Every player contributed their part in the win. Making sure that we take care of the puck at both bluelines and along the walls, we can create more opportunities for ourselves by doing the little things right.”
Creston now sits third overall in the KIJHL, a point behind the Osoyoos Coyotes’ 57 total. Beaver Valley Nitehawks continued their torrid pace and now have 65 points, nine more than Creston, who have a game in hand.
The T-Cats travel to Fernie for a Friday night matchup against the Ghostriders before once again taking on Dynamiters in the John Bucyk Arena on Saturday evening.