Thunder kicks off new season with pair of victories

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The Airdrie Techmation Thunder kicked off its 2017-18 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) season with a pair of victories over Northern Division rivals Sept. 22 and 23.

The team has a new look this year, with a new starting goaltender, leadership group and head coach, and played well in a closely contested matchup with the Blackfalds Wranglers at Ron Ebbesen Arena Sept. 22.

“It is always nice to start in the win column, and we saw a lot of good things from a lot of our players,” head coach Derek Stamp said. “Blackfalds is a very good hockey team and it felt like a close game all throughout all three periods.”

First-year Brendan Davidson found the back of the net three minutes into the opening frame. The powerplay marker didn’t stand as the lone goal for long as the Wranglers knotted the game up 1-1 after 20 minutes.

In the second period, a pair of goals from Jacob MacDonald over a five-minute span was all the Thunder needed to create separation and secure the win.

“(MacDonald) really stepped up. We knew he wanted to embrace more of an offensive role and an opportunity to show what he could do,” Stamp said. “We gave him that opportunity and we love to see somebody that embraces the opportunity and has success like that.”

Jacob Guillespie tacked on a fourth goal and netminder Ryan Simpson turned away all 31 shots he faced in the final two frames to give the Thunder the 4-1 victory.

The Thunder followed up its first victory with a game on the road against the Three Hills Thrashers Sept. 23.

Davidson and MacDonald picked up where they left off by each potting a goal in the first period, while the Thrashers put one of its own past rookie netminder C.J. Wedenig to set the score at 2-1.

The Thrashers stifled the Thunder’s offence in the second period, holding the visiting club goalless and tacking on a second goal to knot the game 2-2 heading into the third frame.

The Thunder took over in the third period, putting pressure on the Thrashers and limiting it to just four shots while putting 24 of its own on target.

MacDonald’s successful weekend continued with another goal and Rylan Plante-Crough and Andrew Neis each got their first of the season, giving the Thunder a 5-2 road victory.

The Thunder continues its season Sept. 29 when it welcomes the 0-2 Cochrane Generals to Ron Ebbesen Arena at 8 p.m.

Stamp said he expects another solid outing from his squad.

“(The Cochrane Generals) are off to a bit of a slow start, but we do know they are a good hockey team,” Stamp said. “After an 0-2 start, we know they are going to be hungry when they come to town. We know we need to maintain our composure and not get too caught up in the emotional highs and lows.”

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