The Thunder started their first home stand of the year on Friday night versus the visiting Sherwood Park Crusaders. The Thunder had lost their first four games and looked to break the ice on the season against the “Cru”.
The Thunder brought all they had in the first twenty minutes, scoring twice early on 16 year old goalie, Zac Klassen. Brett Smythe scored his first AJHL goal on a beautiful play by local product Robert Cain. Only two minutes later Tanner Clarkson buried his second of the season off a nice passing play from Ty Bettac and Nathan Smith. The Thunder held the lead heading into the second frame.
Second periods for the Thunder this season so far have not been nice to the boys, they have been scored on a total of 7 times in the second period heading into tonight's action. The Crusaders took advantage of this statistic and buried 2 goals behind rookie Mitch Martell, who was making his second start of the season.
The third period saw the Thunder fall behind early as the Crusaders tallied twice within the first 5 minutes to put the “Cru” up by 3, a number that the Thunder were unable to come back on.
Nathan Smith was named the Pro Hockey Life Star of the Game for the Thunder after recording 2 assists and playing with veteran poise throughout the game. Martell stopped 39 of 44 shots in the loss.
Saturday brought the Camrose Kodiaks into town, with the Kodiaks surprise struggle to start the season (1-4), the boys looked to capitalize. The game brought over 500 fans into the Omniplex and they were delighted with the effort of the boys throughout the game.
The Kodiaks struck early on a power play after Michael Cardinal went off for roughing. With the Thunder trailing early and looking to score, the Kodiaks jumped on another opportunity and Cam Gotaas scored his second goal of the season to put Camrose up by 2 heading into the second.
The fans were treated to a physical and scrappy second period which saw 3 fights and numerous penalties after the whistle. Newly acquired Chris Kravchuk made his 6'3 frame present as he was involved in multiple altercations, including a fight with Kodiaks Nelson Gadoury in front of the Thunder net. This was in retaliation to a hit earlier in the period by Kravchuk. After the power plays were settled for the period, there was no scoring despite 18 shots thrown on net by both teams.
The third period lightened up, as the Thunder pressed to pull even. The Thunder had many chances in the third to score but Kodiaks netminder Matthew Zentner stopped all 24 shots he faced for the shutout. Thunder goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle stopped 33 of 35 shots in the loss, including a few highlight reel saves in the final frame to keep the game close, Daigle also received the Pro Hockey Life Star of the Game for his performance.
The Thunder now play in the always exciting and tense AJHL Showcase, hosted in Spruce Grove. The boys will play Thursday (26th) versus the same Camrose Kodiaks and then play a “home game” on Saturday night (28th) versus the Spruce Grove Saints. The annual Showcase is an opportunity for scouts from the NHL, Europe, major junior and college to look at talent within our league. All 16 teams will be up in Spruce Grove for the Showcase, it has always been a great event and looks to be once again this year.
The Thunder's next home game is next Sunday September 29th when the Whitecourt Wolverines come to town for a matinee edition of Thunder hockey. For tickets call the Thunder office 780-542-7845.