Thunder split weekend games against Ponoka and Red DeerDeer
The Airdrie Thunder were one goal away from back-to-back wins, but a 5-4 overtime loss to the Red Deer Vipers left the team with a 1-1 split over the last weekend of September.
The Thunder routed the Ponoka Stampeders 10-0 Sept. 29. Alex Hustad’s line came up big for Airdrie with Hustad and his wingers, Aidan Crowther and Brett Hanson, combining for 11 points.
The trio’s chemistry has been growing over the past three regular season games and Thunder Head Coach Cam Aplin said it’s to be expected.
“They’re three of the veterans on the team,” he said. “We’re looking to them to provide leadership and offence and play well in our own zone. That’s what they’ve been doing.”
The captain spot was left vacant with Travis Wallin’s departure after last season, and Aplin and the coaching staff chose Hustad as his successor. For the coaches, the decision was a no-brainer.
“He’s the leader on the team,” said Aplin. “The guys look up to him and respect him. He’s not afraid to speak up. Even in preseason he was coming and talking to me about what other teams might be doing in games and what we need to do better.”
For Hustad, being given the ‘C’ was an honour and while it’s changed his role in the dressing room, his role on the ice is staying the same.
“Every single game, I just try to help the team as best as I can,” he said.
Along with Hustad’s veteran line, rookie Tyler Perkins has been making a name for himself as one of the team’s offensive threats. The Edge School alumni recorded four points against Ponoka and added a single assist against Red Deer. While Perkins’ well-rounded game impressed the coaches during camp, his scoring ability has come as a bit of a surprise, Aplin said.
“You’re never sure how the scoring ability will show up once you get into the regular season,” he said. “We had a very good idea with his speed, he’d put himself in position to score. He’s a good passer too, which complements his linemates well.”
It was anyone’s game when the Thunder took on the Vipers, Sept. 30.
The team was down to three forward lines with five players sidelined with injuries and four forwards playing defence, but Aplin said it was the team’s best game to date.
“We could’ve easily won that game,” he said, adding that the game winning goal looked to be deflected into the net by a high stick.
“It was one of those fluky bounces and hopefully we’ll get that back in the season.”
Aplin said he’s happy with the team’s progress after the first few weeks of the regular season and that the players’ work ethic and positional play was “as good as it’s been,” but the team’s perpetual slow starts need to be rectified.
“We’ve started slow in all three of our games,” he said.
“We need to tighten up on defence. We keep making some big mistakes, giving the other teams breakaways and odd-man scoring opportunities. We need to continue to eliminate those.”
The Thunder’s next home game will be Oct. 5 against High River. Game time is 8 p.m. at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.