Thunder earns first round bye following weekend split
Thursday, Feb 09, 2017 10:28 am
The Airdrie Techmation Thunder is going to have to wait another year to claim the Northern Division regular season crown as it fell just short of its goal against rival Mountainview Colts Feb. 3.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Thunder found itself in must win situations for different reasons. In its penultimate game, the Thunder needed to knock off the Colts if it had any hope in claiming the Northern Division title. After dropping its Feb 3. game, the Thunder needed at least a point against the Red Deer Vipers to secure second in the division and take a first round bye into the post-season.
“As far as I’m concerned, I want a week off to practice and keep working,” head coach Randy Buckle said. “We’re happy with the bye cause we can rest some bumps and bruises and stuff like that.”
The Thunder played its final game at home in the regular season against the Colts in what proved to be a highly contested matchup between the two Northern Division powerhouses.
The Colts opened the scoring with a goal from Cole Sutherland three and a half minutes into the game, but the Thunder bounced back a little more than a minute later when Kris LeClair netted his ninth goal of the season.
It didn’t take long for the Colts to regain the lead as Jack Vergouwen hammered home a loose puck in the slot three minutes later. A goal from Connor Boyd in the final minute of the first period tied the game up once again for the Thunder, knotting the game up at two heading into the first intermission.
In the middle stanza, the Thunder found itself on an extended five-on-three powerplay but failed to capitalize with the advantage, leaving the game at 2-2 until Tyson Schmidt broke the deadlock with less than a minute left in the second, putting the Colts up 3-2.
“We’ve been working on this darn powerplay for months now,” Buckle said. “In practice we look good and sometimes in the game it just doesn’t come to us.
“We want to play with the puck too much and not get pucks to the net to score ugly goals. Everything doesn’t have to be pretty. They have to figure that out.”
Although the Thunder needed to win for any hope of clinching the division, the team could not find the tying tally in the third as the Colts tacked on an empty net goal in the last minute of the game to defeat the Thunder and secure its second division win in as many seasons.
Although there was a level of disappointment falling short of the division title, Buckle said he and his team needed to bounce back the next day in Red Deer.
It appeared the bounce back was going to come in a hurry on Feb. 4 when Clay Murray opened the scoring a minute into the first period for the Thunder.
The Vipers found an answer with the man advantage midway through the opening frame to put the game at 1-1 through 20 minutes.
It was more back-and-forth action in the second period as the Thunder and Vipers exchanged goals looking to pull ahead to finish second, but a powerplay goal from Rylan Plante-Crough gave the Thunder a 4-3 lead.
The Vipers were able to tie the game up once again with less than five minutes left in the game but needed to win in regulation to finish ahead of the Thunder.
In the dying minutes of the game, the Vipers pulled its netminder looking for the go-ahead goal. The Thunder made no mistake with the advantage when Dylan Mccuaig netted an empty netter to give his team the 5-4 victory.
The Thunder finished the regular season with a 27-8-3 record. The team now has a bye into the second round of the playoffs and will face a yet-to-be-determined team. Game 1 will be scheduled following the conclusion of the first round.