Thunder grab 2-0 series lead

The game was over for about 20 minutes when Thunder head coach Dave Allison walked out of the dressing room.
He was heading to his office, about 50 paces down the corridor, but he only made it about 15 steps before he was interrupted.
It was a welcome interruption, though, as his youngest daughter, Isabella, who could light up a room with her smile, ran towards him with her arms stretched open and jumped into his arms.
Allison proceeded to lift her into the air and give her a kiss on the cheek.
It was a touching moment, but all the more suiting considering what had happened 20 minutes earlier when the Thunder cemented a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven semi-final series against the Dryden Ice Dogs here Saturday afternoon.
“What did you think of the game?” Isabella was asked by a casual observer.
“It was good,” she responded shyly.
“You really try to not get caught up in the emotion of it, but that’s part of the fun of coaching because it’s such an emotional roller-coaster and I thought it was an exciting game,” said her dad.
“Dryden played the best game I’ve seem them play,” he added.
With the Thunder having won the series-opener 3-1 here last Thursday night, Game 2 on Saturday was pivotal. The Thunder win and they’re in the driver’s seat.
But if the Ice Dogs won, they’d have the momentum heading into Games 3 and 4, which are being played in Dryden tonight (Wednesday) and Saturday.
It was Derek Fisher who ended up being the hero, finding the back of the net 3:30 into the second overtime period on a play that looked innocent to start but ended in bedlam.
Aaron Boyer side-stepped a Dryden defender in the neutral zone to break into Dryden’s end, but had difficulties maintaining control of the puck in the slot to get a shot off.
So the puck trickled towards the boards—and that’s when Fisher decided to pinch in from his usual position on the blueline.
It proved to be a smart decision as he collected the loose puck and let go what he described as “a weak shot” because he had to “shoot it across my body to get it in front.”
No matter. The puck went off a Dryden leg and went five-hole past goalie Shaun Szachary, who could only tilt his head back in bewilderment and then watch 19 Thunder players rush Fisher for one of the best “swarms” they’ve ever been a part of.
“I’ve been in a couple of swarms,” said Thunder defenceman Kurt Hogard, “but this one came out of nowhere. It was like hockey, hockey, hockey, hey, we won, it’s over, swarm.
“Those are the best ones.”
They stacked up on Fisher like sandbags at a flood site and the International Falls hockey product relished every moment of it.
“That was fun. I was grinning ear to ear,” Fisher recalled. “I had everyone screaming ‘Nice mullet’ and rubbing my mullet, and it was simply awesome and I’ll never forget it.”
Dryden had forced overtime by tying the score at 1-1 with 5:05 left in regulation time.
After a scoreless first period, Tyler Barker had given the Thunder the lead in the second period with a wrist shot that beat Szachary top shelf. Riley Dudar assisted on the play.
Tyler Gordon stopped 26 shots to earn the win between the pipes. He’s now the SIJHL’s top goalie in the playoffs with a 2-0 record, an astounding 0.54 goals against average in 224 minutes of play, and a .975 save percentage.
The Thunder offence, meanwhile, rebounded from a slow start. After taking just eight shots in the first period, they wound up firing 47 in all at Szachary.
The Thunder’s top line in Josh McAndrew, Dennis Morrison, and Boyer led the way in the series opener last Thursday.
McAndrew scored first at the 11:32 mark of the opening period. After being cross-checked from behind, he managed to pluck the puck out of mid-air—while falling to the ice, no less.
Morrison and Hogard assisted on the power-play goal.
“I rolled off [a Dryden defender] and as I rolled off, the puck just deflected out in front to me, so I was kind of in the right spot at the right time, but it really felt good when it went in,” described McAndrew, who didn’t scored a goal in last year’s playoff series against the Ice Dogs.
He admitted it felt good “to get that monkey off my back.”
Dryden tied the game at the 6:12 mark of the second period, but Morrison answered 7:25 into the third period when he capitalized on another face-off won by the Thunder.
“It felt great to score that goal,” said Morrison, “I was surprised when it went in because before that I was just shooting muffins.”
The play was assisted by Hogard, who later would tally a length-of-the-ice empty-netter, which made the final score 3-1 and gave him three points on the night.
“Playoffs is what separates the men from the boys. You just thrive off everything—the high-tempo of the game, the crowd, the atmosphere in the room,” said Gordon, who made 29 saves to earn the win.
Gordon had to spend the following morning (Friday) in hospital getting treatment for his low-platelet count, which had kept him out of action for nearly a month.
But though the condition is something that still continues to be a hindrance, Gordon believes the rewards far outweigh the risks.
“It’s worth it. Without a doubt it’s worth it,” said the Hudson hockey product. “Hockey is my life. I’ve been away from my home since I was 14 years old and have been here and there and everywhere.
“It’s really the only thing I know and it’s my only true passion.”
The Thunder will be relying on Gordon’s stellar play again tonight in Dryden for Game 3, with Game 4 slated for Saturday night there.
Game 5, if necessary, would be played here next Tuesday night (March 29).
“We still have got to come out hard, and we’ve got to stay hungry, and we’ve got to play hard and continue to battle,” stressed Allison.

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