Rough week for Thunder as team drops two straight
Thursday, Jan 25, 2018 06:00 am
The Airdrie Techmation Thunder suffered a major setback in its pursuit of first in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) Northern Division, dropping back-to-back games Jan. 19 and 20.
With just a few weeks remaining in the regular season, wins are becoming more important, but the Thunder missed out on a prime opportunity to pass the division-leading Red Deer Vipers. Taking just one of a possible four points on the weekend with a loss to the Stettler Lightning and dropping an overtime road game to the Vipers, the Thunder needs to regroup quickly.
“Ups and downs are going to happen, it’s just how you respond to them,” head coach Derek Stamp said.
“We’ve done an OK job of trying to maintain level-headedness, but it is definitely a time where, over the past few games, we need to show ourselves and prove we’re a hockey team capable of being successful.”
Slow starts proved to be the team’s undoing in the two games, creating early deficits the team would not overcome.
In its home game against HJHL Championship contender the Lightning, the Thunder found itself down 2-1 through 20 minutes and behind 5-2 after two periods. Special teams once again proved to be an issue for the squad.
In the third period, the team showed a glimmer HJHL-Championship-contender ability. Dante Raposo scored a power-play marker less than four minutes in, followed by a tally from Clay Murray about 10 minutes later.
Despite outshooting and outchancing its opponent in the third, the Thunder could not find the equalizer and fell 5-4.
“They were the much better hockey team for the first 40 minutes and had us on our heels,” Stamp said.
The Thunder then travelled north Jan. 20 to take on the Vipers. With a potential four-point swing on the line, Stamp said his team came in focused and ready to play.
Both teams exchanged goals in the opening minutes, with the Vipers scoring about two minutes into the game and Jacob McDonald answering with a goal for the Thunder just 14 seconds later.
A Vipers’ power-play goal at the midway point gave the home team a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Thunder penalties spurred the Vipers to two more goals with the man advantage in the second. A goal from Rylan Plante-Crough late in the period cut into the Vipers lead, but the Thunder trailed heading into the final frame.
“Red Deer has an outstanding power play. You can’t give them chance after chance after chance without understanding the potential for them to swing the momentum is really high,” Stamp said. “That’s exactly what they did.”
The Thunder dominated in the third, firing 21 shots on net, while limiting Red Deer to just four of its own. The Thunder power play knotted the game up with a pair of goals just 20 seconds apart from Murray and Matt Thomson, but the team couldn’t get the go-ahead goal, resulting in overtime.
Once again, the Vipers struck fast. At just 1:23 Declan Johnston put an end to the game and gave the Vipers its second win against the Thunder this season.
The Thunder and Vipers will meet just one more time in the regular season, Jan. 26, when Red Deer comes to the Ron Ebbesen Arena at 8 p.m.
With just five games remaining, the team needs to learn from the disappointing weekend and turn the corner fast.