On a weekend schedule cut short when team bus problems forced the postponement of its Saturday night game in Invermere, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats still came away with 2 points.
The Thunder Cats squeaked away with a 6-5 win in Sparwood over the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday night when Bryce Sturm scored on the power play with 14 seconds left in regulation time. KIJHL scoring leader assisted, as did Conor Monaghan.
“We looked to our team depth in this game,” head coach Brad Tobin said on Sunday. “We wanted to mix and match different lines to see what chemistry we could come up with. With some new-look lines, it took a while for us to start playing our game again.”
Plunkett (Logan Rast and Justen James) and Monaghan (Ronnie Wilkie and Callum McGhee) scored in the first period to put the T-Cats up 2-0.
Keelan Saworski put Fernie on the board 18 seconds into the second frame, but Wilkie’s second goal (Plunkett and McGhee) only 18 seconds later restored the Creston lead. Mathew Cooper and Mitch Titus scored to draw Fernie into a tie later in the period, but Mitchell Wolfe (Sturm and Dylan Rantucci) put Creston up 4-3 after 40 minutes.
Wilkie scored again midway through the third period, with assists from Plunkett and McGuire. Not to be taken for granted, Fernie fought back with goals by Jordon Krom and Ethan Jang in the last ten minutes, putting the Ghostriders into a tie that would be broken by Sturm’s winner.
“Ronnie Wilkie netted 2 goals, which now puts him at 46 goals for the season,” Tobin said. “It’s quite an accomplishment to get to that number and he’ll have three more regular season games to get to 50 goals.”
Going for a third win in the week didn’t happen on Sunday, though. The team was assembled at the Community Complex and ready to head to Invermere when word came through that the team bus was unable to transport the players. The game was rescheduled for Tuesday night, after press time.
Earlier in the week, the Thunder Cats trampled all over the Golden Rockets, coming away with a 9-0 home win.
The first of 8 games the two teams played in 2017-2018 started with a competitive 3-1 win for Creston on September 9, but 4-2 Thunder Cat win late in January was the only other close game in a series that included a 16-1 drubbing on December 2. The T-Cats outscored the Rockets 63-11 in regular season play.
Carson Small (Brody Ryan) started the onslaught of scoring near the halfway mark of the first period in John Bucyk Arena on Wednesday. James (Plunkett and Ronnie Wilkie) and Wilkie (Plunkett) put the Thunder Cats up by 3 after 20 minutes.
James scored on a penalty shot 10:38 into the second period. Sturm (Rantucci and Ryan) and Vin Jackson (Tyler Witzke and Mitchell Wolfe), with his first Junior B goal, put Creston into a 6-0 lead before the second period ended.
Wilkie (Plunkett and McGhee, and then Plunkett and James) scored a pair in the final frame to complete his hat-trick and Plunkett added a short-handed effort with 5 seconds left in regulation time to add the final insult to injury.
Levi Mitchell earned the shutout by stopping all 20 shots the Rockets put on him and lowered his goals-against average to 1.80, good for the second spot among KIJHL goaltenders.
Plunkett continues to lead KIJHL scorers with 88 points after weekend play. Wilkie is in second place with 84 points and Justen James holds down sixth place with 70 points.
The Thunder Cats wrap up regular season play with a home game on Friday against the league-leading Kimberley Dynamiters, the finish up in Sparwood for another match against the Fernie Ghostriders on Saturday.
Creston will finish second in the Eddie Mountain Division and it’s a sign of league parity that the Thunder Cats’ 63 points would be good enough for second place in each of the league’s other three divisions. The playoff schedule has yet to be announced, but Creston will face the Columbia Valley Rockies in the first round.