Thunder out of playoffs after Game 6 loss to Red Deer
The 2012-2013 season came to a heartbreaking end for the Airdrie Thunder, but it didn’t go out quietly. The Thunder was eliminated from the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) playoffs after a Game 6 loss to the Red Deer Vipers, March 4.
“It was a really good hockey game,” said Thunder head coach Cam Aplin. “We battled back and we had ample opportunities to win the game, but we just couldn’t get any bounces.”
Alex Hustad and Matt Flette scored the Thunder’s first and second goals, to which the Vipers replied, but Red Deer scored two goals within 22 seconds to end the second period and take a 4-2 lead into the third.
Logan Smith brought the Thunder within one and a powerplay marker from Gavin Klein tied the game. The 4-4 score would stand to the end of the third until the dying second of overtime when a Viper shot from the blue line was deflected past goaltender James Fisk.
Aplin called the two, late second-period goals “deflating,” but said the rally back was a testament to the team’s character and a showing that the coaches had been waiting for all season.
A little bit of luck might have tipped the series in the Thunder’s direction, Aplin added.
“It was a good hockey game up until then,” he said.
“During the year if that happens, we fold the tent and walk out with the loss. That didn’t happen in the playoffs.
“After Game 1, you couldn’t question their effort one bit. They came to play every game. I always say that you generate your own luck and we did enough to generate it, but we didn’t have any (bounce our way). It’s too bad for them because they worked extra hard like they needed to.”
The loss ended the team’s season and also the Junior B careers of four of the team’s 21 year olds including Alex Hustad, Daniel Hounjet, Alex Diduch and Tanner Kocis.
“It was a battle,” Kocis said, who played four years with the Thunder. “We battled really hard and the guys came together. I don’t think we deserved the fate we got, but that’s the way it goes and it was a hell of a ride.
“It was heartbreaking going out like that, but playing with those guys in my last year (was great). We went out with a bang and it was exciting. I’m going to miss it and it’s going to be really hard to leave it behind.”
Kocis also echoed Aplin’s sentiments that, at times, bad luck befell the Thunder in the series against Red Deer, but that it was a character-building six games.
“I don’t know if we couldn’t score or they just (got better bounces),” Kocis said. “There were times when we had wide open nets and we’d (miss). The next minute you look and the puck’s down the ice and in our net.
“In playoff hockey, it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes, but the depth we had in the playoffs blew me away. You couldn’t tell which line was the first, second, third or fourth. It comes down to everybody trying to work hard for everyone in the room.”
Aplin said each of the veterans brought something different to the team: Hustad, as captain, was the team’s leader and Diduch brought grit and toughness upon his return to the team.
Hounjet was versatile and Kocis was a sturdy presence on defenceman. While their departures leave holes for the team to fill, Aplin is already looking forward to September.
“We have good, young talent and all of our young guys showed up in the playoffs,” he said. “They made it tough on us as coaches and we had to sit guys out. Everybody played a part and we have a strong core coming back.”