A balanced scoring attack and stingy goaltending continued to be the story on the weekend as the Creston Valley Thunder Cats added two more wins to their KIJHL-leading total.
Justen James led the scoring parade in Friday night’s 7-0 home win against the Columbia Valley Rockies. The rightwinger scored 2 goals and added an assist, and now sits tied with Kyle Bergh and Liam Plunkett for the team lead with 13 points. Brock Lefebvre had a perfect night in goal, turning aside all 16 Rockies’ shots to earn his third shutout of the season.
James scored the first period’s only goal, with assists going to Grant Iles and Jake Livingstone. Bergh, from Ronnie Wilkie and Dylan Kent, and McConnell Kimmett, from Landon Siegle and Luke Kaleniuk, had the Thunder Cats up 3-0 after two periods.
It was all Creston in the final frame. Plunket (Siegle and Livingstone), James (Plunkett and Kaleniuk), Aiden Wong (James and Lien Miller-Jeannotte) and Sebastien Kilcommons (Plunkett and Iles) rounded out the scoring.
James was named the Creston game star in front of a crowd of 386. Columbia Valley goalie was the Rockies’ star despite letting in 7 goals. He stopped 41 of the 48 shots he faced.
“We played hard for a full 60 minutes and avoided the poor stretches that had sneaked into our game the previous few games,” Thunder Cat coach Jeff Dubois said on Sunday. “We kept our turnovers low and didn’t give up second and third chances in our defensive zone.
Offensively, everybody was involved and we were getting lots of pucks and bodies to the net. We laid out an offensive game plan for our guys and they executed on it.”
While the win was a team effort, Dubois pointed out one player who has been particularly impressive.
“Liam Plunkett is really developing into a complete player at our level. He always gives a great effort, battles and gets the job done on the defensive side of the puck, but he’s evolved into one of our top offensive players and a guy who can really create his own chances and open things up for his linemates.”
Creston took their winning ways west to Castlegar on Saturday night, where they handed the Rebels a 6-2 defeat. Six different scorers contributed as the Cats earned their ninth win in 11 games.
Creston jumped off to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame on goals from local player Logan Wullum, who scored from Livingstone and Iles, and Siegle, with Kilcommons assisting. Cankovic (Miller-Jeannotte and Kaleniuk) and Wilkie (Bergh) extended Creston lead before Ellis Junker put the Rebels on the scoreboard.
Shawn Campbell helped close the lead to 4-2 with 2:46 to go in the game, but Plunkett scored into an empty net with help from Wullum and Iles. Kaleniuk added an insurance goal with 18 seconds left with an assist going to Miller-Jeannotte. Lefebre gave up 2 goals while stopping 26 shots.
“For the most part we played a really strong and smart road game,” the coach said. “We came out a bit slow but started controlling the game over the second half of the first period and didn’t give up much defensively once we took a lead.”
He tipped his hand on what the Thunder Cats players can expect this week in preparation for the weekend.
“Our power-play had a handful of chances where we could have put the game away but we lacked some urgency and didn’t capitalize on those opportunities. That will be an area we focus on in practice this week.”
Dubois singled out two lesser known players for comment.”
Logan Wullum was back in our line-up after missing a few weeks due to injury and he gave us a ton of energy, plus he scored the opening goal on Saturday,” he said. “Landon Siegle has been getting more and more comfortable after a bit of a slow start and he’s starting to make things happen offensively.”
Despite Creston’s hot start the team remains only 2 points up on the Kimberley Dynamiters, who have also played 11 games. The Thunder Cats remain undefeated in regulation time, with 9 wins, a tie and an overtime loss, and have earned 20 of a possible 22 points. Kimberley sits in second place in the Eddie Mountain Conference with 18 points on 9 wins and 2 losses. Only the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference-leading Summerland Steam have 20 points after weekend play, but they have needed 13 games (9 wins, 2 losses and 2 overtime losses) to get that total.
Balanced scoring? The Thunder Cats have 10 players with at least 10 points at this point. Cankovic and Kilcommons share second place in team scoring with a dozen points each. Wong, Iles, Kimmett, Miller-Jeannotte and Livingstone each have 10 points.
The Thunder Cats hit the road to take on the Golden Rockets on Friday night, then the teams head back to Creston for a return match on Saturday night. Golden has a 3 and 9 record, and has a -19 goal differential after a dozen games. By contrast, Creston leads the KIJHL with a +34 as they average exactly 5 goals a game for and are giving up just under 2 goals a game.