Thunder earn massive win over Cochrane
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 06, 2014 11:28 am
It might be cliché to say that the latest triumph by the Airdrie Thunder was the team’s biggest of the 2013/14 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) season, but given where the team is in the playoff picture, there’s no other way to describe it.
With a 3-1 win over the Cochrane Generals on Feb. 1 at the Spray Lakes Family Sports Centre in Cochrane, the Thunder improved its overall record to 13-17-2 for the season and is now one point behind the Three Hills Thrashers for the fifth and final playoff spot in the HJHL’s Northern Division.
“The boys came together and with where we are in the standings, every game is a big win,” Thunder Head Coach Kyle Havilland said.
“It was a good outing by the guys on the road, and a total team effort.”
“Whether it was a guy who only played eight or nine minutes, or one of our first or second line forwards, everyone bought into what we were doing,” he added.
The win for the Thunder was also an impressive bounce back from its last league game on Jan. 24 in Airdrie, when the team was hammered by a score of 7-3 by the Blackfalds Wranglers.
“We worked a lot on our mental focus and being prepared for the full 60 minutes, and that’s exactly what the guys did in Cochrane,” Havilland said.
“That was the major difference, as we only played about 45 hard minutes against Blackfalds in our loss at home.”
After giving up a goal late in the first period, the Thunder’s offensive attack came to life in the second period, as the team scored three unanswered goals during the frame.
Airdrie natives Ashton Sheen, Mark Kunitz, and Matthew Flette all fired shots by Generals goaltender McKenzie Chalmers and into the back of the net, while Thunder netminder Kade Taplin made 32 saves to help his team earn the win.
“In the first, we were making soft plays and attacking at their bluelines, and we saw the guys trying to do things by themselves, which wasn’t working at all,” Havilland said.
“We made a change to get more pucks down deep into their zone, and the guys made better decisions to create those offensive opportunities.”
The Thunder will look to continue its momentum on the road on Feb. 8, when the team will go to the Three Hills Centennial Arena for a game with the Thrashers at 8 p.m.
“This is easily our biggest game of the season, especially since we are both battling for that final playoff spot,” Havilland said.
“If we prepare to play a full 60 minutes once again, we should do fine as we had success the last time we played them (a 5-1 win in Airdrie on Jan. 10).”
The next home game for the Thunder will take place at the Ron Ebbesen Arena on Feb. 9 at 3:45 p.m., when the team will play host to the High River Flyers, in a contest when Havilland will be preaching a message of keeping the momentum up to his squad.
“Since I came in as the head coach in December, we have only had one occasion where we played a pair of really good games,” he said.
“Usually, we will have one game that the guys play well in, and then they don’t play as well the next time out.”