The Drayton Valley Thunder entered Saturday's game after a thrilling come from behind shootout victory versus the Camrose Kodiaks at the AJHL Showcase last Thursday. The boys packed up and headed back to the Showcase on Saturday to give scouts and fans another taste of Thunder hockey. The boys went up against division rival Spruce Grove Saints.
The Saints were the dominate team from the get go, outshooting the Thunder in the first period 18-5. The Saints however were only able to put one goal past netminder Marc-Olivier Daigle. Overall the period was fast paced and clean (only one penalty in the frame) and the Thunder trailed 1-0 heading into the second.
The second period saw 3 goals scored, 2 by the Saints and one by the Thunder on the power play by veteran forward Nathan Smith, who was just beginning to have a great game for the Thunder offensively. Once again however the Thunder were outshot 11-5 in the period, but only trailed 3-1 heading into the third period.
The shots once again favoured the Saints in the third, but Daigle was strong and kept the boys in the game all night. The comeback magic was still alive as the boys were able to score twice in the period on just 4 shots on goal. Both tallies were on the man advantage, giving the Thunder the best power play in the entire league. Nathan Smith was in on both goals with a goal and an assist respectively. The score was tied 3-3 and once again the Thunder would be guaranteed at least a point.
Overtime saw the Saints ruin the party for the Thunder as Isaac Farrah pounced on a puck in the Thunder zone and zipped a shot past Daigle to end it. The Thunder got 3 out of a possible 4 points at the showcase to start the climb in the standings.
The boys travelled back home Saturday night and had a quick turnaround with a 2:30pm game versus the visiting Whitecourt Wolverines. The Wolverines in their second season in the AJHL had allowed the second most goals in the league, but had scored the most. An odd statistic but nonetheless effective for the squad.
The boys came out hard in front of 555 fans at the Omniplex. But it was Whitecourt who capitalized on starting goaltender Mitch Martell. The Wolverines got to Martell twice in the period and found themselves trailing heading into the second.
The middle frame saw the boys pick up the pace even more, skating stride for stride with a quality Whitecourt team. The hometown team got on the board first in the period on another power play goal by Trevor Poirier. The Thunder's last 5 goals prior to Poirier's have all come via the man advantage, giving the boys the best PP in the league. After two periods of play the Wolverines had a 4-2 edge.
The third period saw Marc- Olivier Daigle come into the game to relieve starting goaltender Mitch Martell. Daigle was effective in his time in between the pipes stopping 13 of 14 shots his way in just under 33 minutes of work. The comeback magic was stopped this afternoon as the boys were unable to find the back of the net like at the Showcase to try and send it to overtime or beyond. The final score was 5-2 Whitecourt.
The boys now have a week of practice before heading out to play the best team in the league, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in a back to back road trip with that Barons. Playing in one of the toughest arenas in the league will test the Thunder and hopefully hand the Barons their first loss on the season.
The next home game for the Thunder isn't until October 11th when the Grande Prairie Storm come to town, 7:30pmm start in the Omniplex.