Thunder Cats red hot to start KIJHL season

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Thunder Cats red hot.

After two shutout road victories on the road to start the season the Creston Valley Thunder Cats returned home to strut their stuff in front of hometown fans on the weekend.

They didn’t disappoint, edging the Fernie Ghostriders 2-1 in a double overtime game on Friday, then walking all over the Columbia Valley Rockies in a 10-1 laugher.

Cats’ goaltender Brock Lefebvre was the game star once again on Friday, stopping 39 of 41 Ghostrider shots in leading his team to its third straight win. Lefebvre’s goals against average stands at a ridiculous .65 after three games.

The game was especially satisfying for Creston, which overcame a 2-0 deficit in the third period. A power play goal by Jonathan Lee put the Thunder Cats on the board with 8:59 remaining and Grant Iles notched the tying goal with 4:45 left in the final frame, sending the teams into overtime.

After a scoreless fourth period, Thomas Cankovic scored on the power play with 4:49 left to send fans home with smiles.

“We were pretty sleepy for the first two periods but it was good to see us pick up our game when we went down two goals and have the resilience to come back and win,” Coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday. “You always want to send the fans home happy in your home opener and it was good that we were able to do that.”

A key for the Thunder Cats is to use their speed, he said.

“It was a good reminder that when we slow the game down we aren’t as effective. We were trying to do too much and be too fancy through the neutral zone and Fernie did a great job taking our time and space away. We needed to do a better job doing the simple things well.”

Once again, he said, Lefebvre was a key.

“Brock Lefebvre made some big saves to keep us in the game. Grant Iles was our best forward and came up big with the tying goal late in the third period. Thomas Cankovic made a great shot to win the game in overtime.”

A dominant effort from start to finish gave backup goalie Patrick Osterman the chance to get a win in his first start, and he made it count, stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced.

Creston jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead, on goals by Bryce Sturm, McConnell Kimmett, Lien Miller and Aiden Wong, and never looked back. The balanced scoring continued with second period markers by Cankovic, Nico Sidoni, Daneel Lategan and Kyle Bergh.

After Columbia Valley opened the final period with a goal to make it 8-1, Cancovic and Aiden Wong gave Creston and the more than 300 fans in the stands the last laugh. Iles was named the Thunder Cats star of the game.

“Our offence really got rolling after a few games where it felt like we were working hard but not smart in the offensive zone,” Dubois commented. “We had contributions from all four lines as well as our defence and a handful of our rookies got their first KIJHL goals or points.”

A 10-1 win doesn’t give a coach much room to find negatives, he said.

“It’s tough to complain about any part of our game. We got the job done offensively, cut down on shots and scoring chances against and our special teams were both excellent.”

Asked about players that had success, Dubois didn’t hesitate.

“The line of Aiden Wong, Justen James and Lien Miller-Jeannotte combined for nine points. Bryce Sturm and Daneel Lategan scored their first KIJHL goals. Nico Sidoni scored his first goal as a T-Cat and stood up for a teammate after a borderline hit against the boards.”

Creston takes its Eddie Mountain division-leading 4-0 record back to the John Bucyk Arena on Friday for a rematch against the Ghostriders, then heads to Fernie on Saturday for a third early season games against one of their arch rivals.

 

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