Thunder coach pleased by showing despite shootout loss
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 10:29 am
Although the Airdrie Thunder dropped a 3-2 affair to the Stettler Lightning in a shootout at the Ron Ebbesen Arena on Dec. 13, its performance against one of the top teams in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) was something the team was pleased about.
For newly appointed Head Coach Kyle Haviland, the showing was one he believes the squad can build upon as it looks to get out of the hole it has dug in the HJHL’s Northern Division standings.
“It was a great effort from the guys tonight, and I’m really proud of how everyone played,” said Haviland, who took over from Cam Aplin in the head coach role for the Thunder on Dec. 6 after Aplin was let go.
“We did really well against one of the top teams in the league, and this is something that we can build on going forward.”
“One of our keys for this game was to stay composed out there, as this is a team that pressures you a lot in your own zone, and we were able to keep our heads in the game,” he added.
With the Lightning leading by a score of 2-1 in the third period, it looked as if the home side would suffer another loss, when Langdon native James Price found the back of the net for the Thunder with eight minutes remaining in the frame.
Over the course of the remainder of the third period, and in the five-minute overtime, the Thunder peppered the Lightning net with shots, but was unable to get the go-ahead goal.
“It was really good to see the guys battling back there,” Thunder goaltender and Airdrie native Kade Taplin said.
“It’s never an easy task to come back from being down a goal, especially against a really strong Stettler team, but it’s nice to see the boys putting the work in to just that.”
In the shootout, Taplin kept his team in the game by making eight saves, but he was unable to turn aside a quick wrist shot from Lightning forward Mark Dietz in the 10th round as the visitors came away with the win.
“I’m pretty sure that was the longest shootout that I have ever been a part of in my career, but it was still a lot of fun even though we lost,” Taplin said.
“I have been pretty happy with my effort over the last couple of games, and as long as the boys keep putting in the effort, I will as well.”
“Kade was outstanding for us, but to be honest, that’s what I expect from him on a nightly basis,” Haviland said. “He’s someone that gives you an honest effort every single night and that is great to see.”
As he gets settled in his role behind the bench, Haviland has become more familiar with the players who he coached last year as an assistant and the new players this season and he said he is liking what he sees.
“I’m really happy with the team that I have here, and I think we will have a good opportunity to start moving up in the standings,” he said.
“We have a couple of games here before Christmas, and we are just going to concentrate on implementing our systems and our special team’s play in order to be successful.”
“It’s been a change, but I wouldn’t call it a massive change,” Airdrie native and Thunder forward Curtis Bunney added.
“Most of the players who were on the team last year know Kyle already and we all have a lot of respect for him, and now the new guys are getting used to him and we all want to start winning.”
The Thunder will hold its final home game before Christmas on Dec. 20 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena at 8 p.m., when it will play host to the Red Deer Vipers.
The team’s last game prior to the holidays will be on Dec. 21 in Medicine Hat when it will go up against the Medicine Hat Cubs at 5 p.m.