The Creston Valley Thunder Cats are an equal opportunity opponent these days, having used home-ice advantage to beat the KIJHL’s last-place team 9-1 on Friday and then drubbing the first place team 7-1 on Saturday.
“Obviously you circle these games on your calendar, especially with us trying to claw back into the division race,” head coach Brad Tobin said on Tuesday. The game in reference was Saturday’s romp over the Kimberley Dynamiters.
Tyler Witzke opened the game’s scoring with two goals (Aiden Wong and Conor Monaghan assisting on the first, the second being a solo short-handed effort), which turned out to be all the scoring the red-hot Thunder Cats would really need. Monaghan (Wong and Witzke) added another goal to give the visiting team a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes of play
“Tyler Witzke was playing at another speed compared to anyone else in that game,” Tobin said.
Creston poured it on in the second period, and league goal-scoring leader Ronnie Wilkie proved his value with a hat-trick. Wilkie’s first goal was assisted by league scoring leader Liam Plunkett and fifth place scorer Justen James. Six minutes later James and Mitchell Wolfe set him up. After a Monaghan (Witzke and McCardle) power-play goal, Wilkie added his own power play effort, from Monaghan and Witzke.
Witzke’s 5-point effort proved to be a change from the usual dominant performances by the Plunkett-Wilkie-James line.
Brandt Bertoia scored Kimberley’s goal in the final frame, breaking up Levi Mitchell’s bid for a shutout. Mitchell stopped 37 shots to earn the win.
“It was great to see everyone chip into this victory, from the goal scoring to the shot blocking it really was a team effort,” Tobin said. “Now we refocus and get back to work, looking ahead to Castlegar next Friday, a team who’s in the same spot looking to win their division down the stretch.”
The Plunkett line put on a show for the ages on Friday night against Golden, racking up 18 points in the 9-1 win over the Rockets, who have only 9 points on the season.
James opened the scoring 39 seconds into the game with assists from Plunkett and Jake McGhee and the rout was on.
“We had a great week of practice and wanted to carry that over into the weekend set of home games,” Tobin said. “We got our energy going early in the game and didn’t look back. Justen James had an outstanding game, he just wanted to take over that game and he did.”
Plunkett (Wilkie and James) and James (Plunkett and Wilkie) also scored in the opening period.
Bryce Sturm scored his first of two goals late in the second period, with assists from Carson Small and Dawson McGuire. Wilkie (James and McCardle) and James (Plunkett and Jason Furukawa) put the Thunder Cats into a 6-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Shawn Grobowsky scored on the power play at the 11:09 mark of the third period to break up Sam Burford’s shutout bid. But Creston responded with goals from Wilkie (James and Plunkett), who completed his hat-trick, Sturm, an unassisted power play effort, and Plunkett (James and Wilkie).
The monster effort in the two road games by the team’s top line (24 total points) leaves Plunkett in first place in KIJHL scoring with 75 points and Wilkie in second place with 72 points. James has sole position of fifth place, with his 60 points coming in only 31 games.
The pair of victories edged Creston closer to Kimberley, whose 70 points leave them with a 5-point lead, each team having played 38 games.
The Thunder Cats hit the road this weekend, heading west to take on the Rebels in Castlegar on Friday night, then going east to Invermere on Saturday for a match against the Columbia Valley Rockies.