Close games benefiting improved Airdrie Thunder

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After a disappointing end to October, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder have seen massive improvement in its first three games of November, but the team still wants more progress.

Since closing out October on a three-game losing streak, the Thunder have gone 2-1-0, with the past three games having been decided by just a single goal. Although any team would like to have its wins come in convincing fashion, head coach Derek Stamp said he is happy to see his team doing well and pulling through in tight games.

“Anytime that we can play the types of game we’re going to be playing in February, and create that adversity and see how we react to it, is beneficial,” Stamp said.

“We know when we get into the grind of the playoffs, we’re going to have to go through teams like Mountainview and Red Deer. It’s not realistic to expect to beat those teams by multiple goals.”

The Thunder kicked off November with a gutsy 6-5, overtime victory against the Ponoka Stampeders. Although Ponoka is a team that sits further down in the Heritage Junior Hockey League Northern Division standings, Stamp said his team needed to focus more on getting off its slide and back to playing better hockey.

The team got off to a fast start scoring a pair in the first period, but after being outscored 5-2 in the middle stanza, it came down to late game theatrics from Austin O’Bray in the third to knot the game up and force overtime.

Jacob MacDonald was the overtime hero, scoring two minutes into the extra frame and giving the Thunder its first win in four games.

“It was a tough game because we were coming off of a losing streak with some performances that weren’t our best,” Stamp said. “It’s the definition of a trap game, but our guys came out and played well.

“We took a lesson from it – we need to come prepared against every team no matter where they sit in the standings.”

The Thunder continued its close battles Nov. 10 in an away game against the Mountainview Colts.

Once again the Thunder jumped out to an early lead, scoring a pair in the first and exchanged a pair of goals in the second to hold a 4-2 lead going into the final frame.

A pair of shorthanded goals from Mountainview knotted up the game and forced overtime, where a goal in the first minute from Dante Raposo broke the tie and gave the Thunder its second overtime win.

The Thunder had its run end two days later against the Red Deer Vipers, when it fell 4-3, but Stamp said his team was the better team and lost due to a pair of powerplay goals it gave up while on a five-minute penalty kill.

Stamp added the teams’ special teams will have to get up to snuff if it hopes to continue moving in a positive direction.

In November the Thunders’ special teams have gone ice-cold, going two for 15 on the powerplay, while giving up two short-handed goals and six for 20 while on its own penalty kill.

“If we can generate offence from our special teams that’s going to be the difference more often than not,” Stamp said. “Each team is going to get a handful of penalties (in a game). If we can score on our powerplay and shut down theirs, we’re going to have success.”

The Thunder continues its season Nov. 17 when it plays host to the Strathmore Wheatland Kings at Ron Ebbesen Arena at 8 p.m.

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