Skating onto a clean sheet of ice with the home fans cheering over top of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the Fort Frances Thunderhawks were primed to be rip-roaring and ready to go.
But not even inspiration from the Australian rockers could help the T’hawks avoid a pair of slow starts this weekend, although they managed to pull out a win in two tries.
The visiting Thunder Bay Twins backed the home side into a corner both Friday and Saturday night, leaving the squad facing first-period deficits of three and four goals, respectively.
Fort Frances did stage a rally in each game, but only one was successful as the T’hawks split the doubleheader, winning 6-5 on Friday but then losing 10-5 on Saturday.
“We came out a little flat again,” captain Ian Lockman said after Friday night’s win.
“We came in [at the first intermission] and had a little talk about finishing our hits and shooting the puck more and keeping our feet moving,” he noted.
“And try not to take any stupid penalties.”
Ross Johnson scored twice, including the game-winner, and added an assist on Friday as the Thunderhawks notched their first win in franchise history.
Johnson’s deciding goal was a quick strike response to Mike Krelove’s second goal of the night, which had tied the game a mere 35 seconds earlier.
Friday’s game initially looked like it was going to be a repeat of the T’hawks’ 7-6 shootout loss to Kenora last month as the home side trailed 3-0 after the first period on goals by Keith Mason, Mike Fair, and Krelove.
Whatever was in the Gatorade during the first intermission kicked in quickly, though, as Sean Councillor corralled a Kris Esselink point shot and deposited it just 82 seconds into the frame.
Jeff Savage and Rustyn Dolyny also tallied quickly to make it 3-3 less than three minutes into the second.
Johnson and Bruce Elson rounded out the Thunderhawks’ second-period strike, although Thunder Bay’s Nathan Breukelman deflected a shot off a Fort Frances defender and past Chris Medicine with less than a second remaining to head to the locker-room only trailing by one.
Friday night’s game was a rough affair as the teams combined for 22 penalties.
Four of Fort Frances’ 10 infractions were for roughing after the whistle, including once with a delayed penalty against the hosts.
The T’hawks did end up killing both ends of that 5-on-3, however.
Fort Frances again started slowly Saturday night, spotting the Twins four goals in the first 13 minutes of action.
But the home side showed some resilience once more, notching three goals in 2:57 to cut the deficit to one at intermission.
Brian White kicked off the rally with a shorthanded marker while Tom Biondich and Dolyny also bulged the twine.
The second period followed a similar pattern as the Twins forged ahead, scoring three-straight to take a 7-3 lead.
But like in the first, the hosts grew stronger as time progressed, with goals from Johnson and Tyler Barker again tightening the score.
The Thunderhawks just didn’t have another comeback in them, though, as Thunder Bay blitzed Mike Bannon for three more goals to avoid the weekend sweep.
Breukelman pitched in two goals and an assist for the Twins while defenceman Kory McEwen also netted a pair.