Fort Frances Thunderhawks’ fans have been sent a clear message: there’s no guarantee of success for the newly-formed senior men’s hockey team this season, but the squad won’t be lacking when it comes to providing excitement.
A furious comeback from a three-goal deficit in their season-opener against visiting Kenora with less than five minutes to go forced a shootout, which the Thistles ultimately won to grab a 7-6 victory last Tuesday (Nov. 10).
“We put on the pressure late and were able to tie it up,” noted Thunderhawks’ manager Dean Bruyere, who estimated attendance at the opener to have been close to 700 people.
“We decided not to do an overtime period and went straight to a five-against-five shootout,” he added.
Thunderhawks’ goalie Chris Medicine, who came in for starter Jason Green in a pre-planned move midway through the game, stopped the first two Kenora shooters.
In an intriguing move, the Thunderhawks then opted to put Green back between the pipes, who allowed two of the next three Thistles to score.
It was a tough finish to an interesting first game for Fort Frances, which saw their quality of play range from stagnant to spectacular at various points.
“We started out very slow and were just trying to find our way out there,” recalled Bruyere. “I think we had a little bit of jitters.
“We hit the post twice and missed a couple of empty nets.
“But midway through the second, we started settling in and really took it to them and in the third, we played a much better brand of hockey,” Bruyere added.
While specific goal scorers were not available, Bruyere singled out a few players who had strong games for Fort Frances.
“Kevin Webb played well, as did Rustyn Dolyny, although he looks like he’s waiting for everyone else to catch up to him out there,” Bruyere said about the former Michigan State Spartans star who went on to play professional hockey in Europe.
“Tyler Barker and Clayton Windigo Jr., also looked good out there.”
Bruyere also said their goalies didn’t play too bad at all.
“Defence isn’t our strong suit, but we’re going to mix it up before Christmas,” he remarked. “We’ve got a couple of prospects coming in at Christmas time and we’ll have [forward] Jamie Davis back after Christmas from school.
“We had a few guys struggle who are going to continue to struggle because of the calibre of hockey being this good,” he added.
“[But] we are not going to sit idle [with the roster]. We want to put a good product on the ice,” Bruyere vowed.
The Thunderhawks next will see action Dec. 4-5 against the visiting Thunder Bay Twins, with the Friday game starting at 7 p.m. and the Saturday one still to be confirmed.
These already were scheduled and are not serving as makeup games for the two-game set the two teams were supposed to play Nov. 7-8 here and in Emo, which had to be scrubbed because the Thunderhawks did not have all their paperwork processed in time with Hockey Northwestern Ontario.
Bruyere said he’s trying to line up a game in January with the Prairie Thunder of Grunthal, Man., who were Allan Cup finalists last season.
“That’s where we’ll find out where we stack up,” he admitted. “But I think we’ve got a team that can skate with anyone.”