Two more wins have put the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on a hot streak as the KIJHL regular season winds down.
Creston was the superior team in all facets when they hosted the Golden Rockets on Friday night and skated off with a 4-0 win after pouring 53 shots at the opposition net.
A shutout for Patrick Osterman and two points from Paxton Malone, who is starting to feel comfortable in a T-Cat uniform, helped Creston to emerge victorious.
“We gave up very little on the rush and in our own end, and really limited Golden’s scoring chances and opportunities around our net,” coach Jeff Dubois said on Monday. “It was a solid defensive effort from everybody.”
Grant Iles (Thomas Cankovic and Tyler Severson) and Malone (Jonathan Lee and Austin Anselmo) opened the scoring in with first period goals in a 20-minute session that saw the Thunder Cats out-shoot the Rockets 19-4 despite taking the period’s only two penalties.
Liam Plunkett (Malone and Sebastian Kilcommons) was the only player to put a puck past goalie Dorian Laganiere-Labranche in the second period. Anselmo (Justen James and Lien Miller-Jeannotte) finished the scoring with a third period effort.
“Our intensity level really bounced around throughout the game,” Dubois said. “We came out strong, scored two quick goals and then took the foot off the gas pedal a bit. We’re focusing on getting full 60-minute efforts and that wasn’t the case Friday.”
Hi said one player in particular stood out.
“Austin Anselmo has really given us a boost offensively from the blue line since he joined us earlier this month and we had another two-point night.”
Creston matched their goal production in Kimberley on Saturday night against the second place Dynamiters, and it was just enough to earn a 4-3 victory.
“We stuck to our gameplan in a difficult road rink and did a good job holding on to the one-goal lead we had earned to start the third period,” the coach said.
Paxton Malone was the standout, scoring twice in the first period and then notching the game winner with 4:05 remaining in the third period.
Malone’s first two goals, with Ronnie Wilkie and Plunkett, then Bryce Sturm and Brodie Smith earning assists were matched with Kimberley markers from Joe Karpyshyn and Franco Colapaolo.
Julian Benner’s power play goal from Cankovic was the only score in the second period.
Brandon Langridge drew the Dynamiters even with 4:47 remaining in the game, but Malone’s hat trick goal, from McConnell Kimmett and Smith, allowed the Thunder Cats two complete a two-win weekend.
The Dynamiters always seem to give Creston a good challenge.
“There is still some fine-tuning we need to do with our defensive zone structure against Kimberley,” Dubois said. “They’re a fast team that cycles the puck well and we got caught watching the puck in a few situations. But overall, to get three straight wins against our biggest rival over three consecutive weekends, our guys have been putting the work in and executing at a high level.
“Paxton Malone’s line with Brodie Smith and Bryce Sturm was excellent. Paxton was driving the net all night and got rewarded with three goals. Brodie and Bryce were getting him the puck in good areas. In goal, Brock Lefebvre was very strong.”
The victories put Creston into a seven-point lead over Kimberley in the Eddie Mountain Division, with a game in hand. It also drew them to win three points of a Beaver Valley Nitehawks, who continue to be the class of the KIJHL this season, having given up only four losses in 39 games. The Osoyoos Coyotes have continued their strong play and now have 65 points to give them a one-point edge over Creston. The T-Cats have a game in hand on Osoyoos.
Malone now sits in third place in league scoring, with 60 points in 44 games. Plunkett is in 15th place and Cankovic is holding down the 20th spot.
Creston goalies Ostermann (18 games) and Lefebvre (25 games) have identical 2.58 goals against averages. That average puts them in a tie for sixth place among goalies.
The Thunder Cats return to action on Friday night with a home game against Golden Rockets. On Saturday the team heads to Fernie to take on the Ghostriders. A rare week night game gives Creston fans a chance to see how the local heroes match up against the powerhouse Beaver Valley Nitehawks next Wednesday at 7:30. After those games, the T-Cats have only three regular season matches remaining.