Creston Valley Thunder Cats stomped rival Kimberley Dynamiters 7-2 at home on Friday, but couldn’t sustain the momentum in Castlegar the following night.
The Thunder Cats and Dynamiters are running neck and neck for top spot in the KIJHL’s Eddie Mountain Division, but on Friday the home team outscored the visitors 3-1 in each of the first two periods, then added another goal in the third period to walk away with a 7-2 victory.
“We played a full 60 minutes and controlled the game against a very good opponent,” coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday. “We were solid defensively and that opened up some good opportunities for us on offence. It was a complete team effort.”
Justen James (Lien Miller-Jeannotte and Jake Livingston) and Korbyn Chabot traded goals to start the game, but then Julian Benner (Tyler Severson and Livingstone) and McConnell Kimmett (Sebastian Kilcommons and Aiden Wong) responded to give Creston a 3-1 lead.
Wong (James and Kimmett) and Brodie Smith (Liam Plunkett and Luke Kalenuik) stretched the Thunder Cats’ lead to four goals before Nicholas Ketola dented the mesh for the Dynamiters. Kilcommons (Smith and Plunkett) then returned the favour.
Thomas Cankovic scored on the power play in the final frame, with assists from Kimmett and Smith, who each had a three-point night.
A crowd of 378 was treated to a strong performance for the local favourites, in which the Cats treated both Kimberley goalies badly. Cody Campbell gave up three goals and Mitch Traichevitch saw four pucks get past him, with each playing about half the game. Thunder Cat starter Brock Lefebvre turned away 24 of the 26 shots he faced.
“We had goals from seven different players, but the performance we got from McConnell Kimmett at both ends of the ice was pretty impressive,” Dubois said. “He had three points and was great moving the puck and playing a shutdown role defensively.”
Thunder Cats players can expect to be working on man advantage situations this week.
“Our power play is still a work in progress, but we’ve made some personnel moves there and the early results have been good.”
On Saturday evening, Creston started out the game with a four-point lead atop the division, but Castlegar, which had a 10-9 record, wasn’t about to roll over and play dead.
The Rebels jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead but Creston responded with a pair from Bryce Sturm (Brody Ryan) and Kalenuik (Plunkett and James). Ed Lindsay tied the game for Castlegar but Miller-Jeannotte put the Thunder Cats up 3-2 after one.
“We rebounded from a slow start with a pretty good first period, but we lost it from there and things went downhill pretty fast,” the coach said.
And that, as they say, was all she wrote. Chance Szott, Nico Sidoni and Ed Lindsay scored in the second period to put the Rebels ahead 5-3 and a third period power play effort by John Moeller was the icing on the cake for Castlegar.
“Castlegar was faster than we were and they worked harder,” Dubois added. “They were more effective on special teams and they converted on their opportunities. They made us look slow. There’s lots for us to work on, but we have to also tip our caps to them and acknowledge that it was the best performance we’ve seen from another team in our league so far this season.”
Jason Mailhot stopped 26 shots to pick up the win for the Rebels. Lefebvre stopped 37 of the 43 shots he faced for Creston.
With its 7-2 win over Grand Forks on Saturday, Kimberley once again moved within two points for top stop in the division standings. Only the Beaver Valley Nitehawks can match Creston’s 34 points in the league and Beaver Valley sits with a game in hand.
Creston played the Columbia Valley Rockies on Tuesday (after the Advance print deadline). The Thunder Cats host Fernie Ghostriders on Friday night and then travel to Spokane for another game against the braves on Saturday.