Thunder close out regular season with loss

Like Batman watching over Gotham City, Dave Allison had the best seat in the house last night as he was perched above the zamboni entrance at the Ice for Kids Arena.
Allison was there, and not on the Borderland Thunder bench, because he was serving the last of his six-game suspension handed down by the SIJHL for his role in the bench-clearing brawl at the end of a game against the Dryden Ice Dogs back on Feb. 22.
And this is what he saw—newly-recruited goalie Jared Baldwin of International Falls have a solid game in the pipes, but then allow three goals in the third period which weren’t due to any fault of his own.
Dryden capitalized on errant play by the Thunder, who were playing in their final regular-season game, scoring a few seconds after Clayton Windigo left the penalty box after serving a 10-minute misconduct.
The Ice Dogs then added a pair of power-play goals while Ian Lockman was serving a five-minute major for slashing.
“I think it gave us a perfect illustration of what we have to do to be successful,” said Allison. “You’d like to win, but this really put us in our place for what we have to do.”
The loss didn’t cost the Thunder anything in the standings, winding up in second place with a 30-15-3 record. But the win ensured the Ice Dogs would finish third—setting up a date with the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
Dryden still has two more games this weekend against the fourth-place K&A Variety Golden Hawks, who will face the first-place Fort William First Nation North Stars in the opening round.
As such, the Thunder will have more than a week off before opening their semi-final series with the Ice Dogs here next Thursday (March 17) at 7:30 p.m.
Game 2 is slated for Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena, before the best-of-seven series switches to Dryden for Games 3 and 4 on March 23 and March 26.
On the bright side, the break will give the Thunder some much-needed time to recoup key players in Tyler Gordon and Riley Dudar.
Gordon, who has been suffering from a low platelet count for more than a month, looks to ready in time for the playoffs (“I’m sick of this sitting around stuff,” he commented).
Dudar, meanwhile, will return from, “What they term in hockey jargon as a lower body injury,” said Allison.
Though the Thunder lost last night, they probably were happy over the fact they played a team that was a team.
You see, the KC Bulldogs were in town over the weekend and they could have arrived from Thunder Bay in a 12-passenger van rather than the customary coach bus most other teams require.
The Bulldogs, who came to town with just two wins on the season, showed up with only 10 players (included a back-up goalie) and two coaches.
“Half of them quit and half of them don’t even show up, and I have no respect for those guys to tell you the truth,” said Bulldogs goalie Brian Hince.
“We just do what we can with the players we got,” he added.
Needless to say, it was all Thunder on Friday night, firing 67 shots on goal en route to a 12-0 victory. The Bulldogs managed just 16 shots.
Then the story Saturday afternoon wasn’t the Thunder’s 6-1 win but the fact Hince saved 98 of the 104 shots fired his way that game.
Yep, you read that right—104 shots.
“It’s a joke,” said Thunder forward Andrew Dault. “How can you compete with in the SIJHL with eight players?
“If I was a spectator, I wouldn’t have come to either of these games.
“You got every team killing them [the Bulldogs],” Dault added. “And other leagues probably look at our league, where you have four competitive teams and then them, and say, ‘Why are they even there?’”
As it turned out, less than 200 people were in the Ice for Kids on Saturday to see Hince’s remarkable effort in goal.
“That was one of the most impressive performances that I’ve ever seen by a goalie,” said Gooch.
Everyone knows goalies like to face a lot of shots to demonstrate their abilities, but 98 saves? That’s getting to the point of madness.
“It was just like—wow,” said Dault. “You’re got to give him a lot of credit for him to play that well for that team.
“You’ve got to feel bad for the guy because can you imagine what he would do for a better team? Who knows how far a team could go with a goalie like that?” he added.
The story wasn’t that the Thunder were going to win Saturday, the only question was by how much?
But a variable got thrown into the mix when the score was just 1-0 after the first period that saw Hince make 34 saves to Kevin Kauk’s two, and only 3-0 after two periods (by that time Hince had made 67 saves).
“The guy is the Roberto Luongo of the SIJHL,” said Thunder captain Kurt Hogard, referring to the Florida Panthers goalie widely considered the best on the planet these days.
The numbers don’t lie.
In 28 games this season, Hince has saved 1,534 of 1,693 shots fired his way (an average of 60.4 shots per game) for a respectable .906 save percentage.
Compare that to the top goalie in the CJHL, Victor Saari of the SIJHL’s Fort William First Nation North Stars, who has saved 494 of the 528 shots he’s faced in 27 games (19.5 shot per game) for a .936 save percentage.
The Thunder’s top goalie in Gordon, has made 652 saves of the 710 shots he’s faced in 26 games (27.3 shots per game) for a .918 save percentage.
“It’s kind of hard to give a player from that team an award, but he deserves the MVP award,” said Dault. “He has faced so many shots and he’s got to get it. You can’t deny him of it.”
“I’ve been going through this all year—having shot after shot after shot coming at me, but I just try and do my job out there and that’s all I can do,” said Hince.