Airdrie Thunder through to Northern Division Finals

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The Airdrie Techmation Thunder is in the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) Northern Division Final after eliminating the Blackfalds Wranglers Feb. 27 in Game 4 of the best-of-five series.

After dropping the Feb. 21 series-opener 3-2, the Thunder rattled off three straight wins over the Wranglers.

“We were really happy with the way the guys played in Games 2, 3 and 4,” Stamp said.

“We obviously didn’t start the series the way we wanted to, but to the players’ credit, they managed to change things around. In those final three games of the series, we were able to manage adversity the way we wanted to and execute our systems and structures.”

In what had become a common occurrence through the series, Game 4 started off with a closely contested opening period. Both goaltenders were at their best, turning away a combined 17 shots to keep the game in a scoreless draw through the opening 20 minutes.

It didn’t take long for the deadlock to break, as Wrangler Landon Siegle opened scoring just five minutes into the middle stanza.

The Thunder responded three minutes later when captain Clay Murray potted his team-leading sixth goal of the post-season. The score remained tied through the remainder of the second period.

“It was two teams that were playing a real systematic hockey game,” Stamp said.

The Thunder finally took control in the third period, dictating play and hammering 20 shots on net early in the frame. A pair of goals from Dylan Wenzel and Jared Bainbridge gave the team a 3-1 lead just four minutes into the third.

A power-play marker from Dante Raposo and outstanding play from Wedenig, who turned away all 13 shots he faced, secured the 4-1 victory and the series for the Thunder.

“Some of our guys were able to break things open and take the lead,” Stamp said. “Once we had it, as a team, we were able to keep Blackfalds off the board and secure the win.”

The Thunder now sets a best-of-seven series with the HJHL’s top team and defending league champion Red Deer Vipers. As the league’s most potent offence, the Vipers presents the Thunder with a difficult obstacle.

Despite going up against a team that challenged the Thunder in three of its four matchups this season, Stamp said he believes his team can take on the high-scoring offence of the Vipers.

“They are a really good hockey team,” Stamp said. “They have an outstanding offence and their power play is strong, so it’s going to be a good test.

“They finished first for a reason. But we’re just going to look at what we’ve done throughout the season, including the games we played against them where we felt like we had success even though we didn’t get the result we wanted.”

The series kicked off in Red Deer March 7 (after press time), with the Thunder to host Game 2 March 9 at Ron Ebbesen Arena. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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