Thunder miss out on post-season after playoff loss
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 06:00 am
In the end, a slow start to the 2013/14 Heritage Junior Hockey League season proved to be the Airdrie Thunder’s undoing.
The Thunder was officially eliminated from post-season contention on Feb. 15 following a 5-4 loss in its season finale on the road against the Stettler Lightning, as it finished three points behind the Three Hills Thrashers for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Southern Division.
“We needed to win both games and have a little bit of help in order to get into the playoffs,” Thunder Head Coach Kyle Haviland said.
“However, Three Hills won its final game of the season on Sunday (Feb. 17) over Coaldale, so we would have been out of it anyways.”
After starting the season with a 6-12-1 record, Haviland was brought in to replace fired bench boss Cam Aplin on Dec. 6, 2013, and guided the team to a 9-7-1 record in the final 17 games of the season.
However, the early hole the Thunder (which finished the season with a 15-19-2 record) dug for itself proved to be too much to overcome despite its best efforts.
“It was a tough to look around the room after our loss to Stettler,” Haviland said.
“Everyone has just played their hearts out and you can just see by their body language and the looks on their face as to how hurt they were.”
“It shows how much they cared though, as we were in a playoff push for the last three weeks, and they all worked hard to try and get there,” he added. “It was really disappointing for me as well, as I wanted nothing more than to help those guys get into the post-season.”
The final game of the season for the Thunder against the Lightning proved to be a back-and-forth contest in Stettler, with the two sides trading goals until the final buzzer sounded.
“It was a hard-fought game and both teams were working really hard out there,” Haviland said. “I was really proud of my team as they went in there in a tough situation and kept focused on the task at hand.”
“We had our goalie pulled at the end to try and tie it up, but we weren’t able to come out with the win,” he added.
On Feb. 14, the Thunder wrapped up its home schedule on a winning note, as it doubled up the Mountainview Colts by a score of 6-3 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie.
“The guys were really disciplined and they created a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone, which led to a lot of scoring chances for us,” Haviland said.
“I think we were a lot stronger in the third period though than in the first two periods, as our style of play really started to take effect.”
While he hasn’t made an official decision yet, Haviland is expecting to return to the Thunder next season, where many of the players that were on this year’s roster are also expected to come back for another campaign.
“I would love the opportunity to work with those guys once again to help them make the playoffs,” he said. “We will be losing Taylor Crossley, Donovan Henrion, and Dylan Johnston though, as those guys are the three 21-year-old players who are aging out of our league.”
“It was a privilege to coach all three of those guys and it is a shame to see those guys move on from the team,” Haviland added.