Thunder have Hawks in their cross hairs

Starting the season off on the right skate was just what the Borderland Thunder had in mind.
The local Junior ‘A’ team—fresh off winning the Superior Inter-national Junior Hockey League’s annual “Showcase” tournament here last weekend—hit the ice again this Friday and Saturday night to open its second SIJHL campaign against the visiting Nipigon Feathermen Hawks.
“In order to get better, you’ve got to want to get better,” new Thunder head coach Dave Allison said in preparation for the season’s curtain-raiser.
“Hopefully, the guys will put positive pressure on each other to do the right things on the ice,” he added.
The Thunder looked like a team with something to prove in the “Showcase” tournament, winning all five of their games to earn the title, including back-to-back wins against the defending SIJHL champion Dryden Ice Dogs.
“The momentum from winning a tournament like that always helps,” said Thunder forward Chad Baldwin, who scored the game-winning goal late in the third period of Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 win over Dryden in the final.
“I hope we can keep it up heading into the regular season,” he added. “It’s just the beginning of the year, though. We have to look forward to the rest of the year when it counts.”
The Thunder had a preview of what to expect from their opposition this weekend, having beaten Nipigon 4-1 last Thursday afternoon to open round-robin play of the “Showcase” tournament.
While the Thunder’s power play struggled in the game, going a mere one-for-11, its penalty-killing unit held the Feathermen Hawks to just one goal in six man-advantage opportunities.
Allison said his team’s success last weekend was a result of stepping up and growing up at the same time—something he wants to see project into the regular season.
“Winning [the tournament] was a byproduct of an increased maturity level as the weekend progressed,” he remarked. “There was more of a one-for-all, all-for-one attitude.”
That unity will come in handy against a Hawks team that led the SIJHL in scoring last season with 219 goals—four more than the Thunder—and had the league’s best penalty-killing mark at 83.7 percent.
But Nipigon may have a tough time repeating its offensive performance as three of its top five scorers from last season are gone. By comparison, the Thunder have all six of their leading scorers—led by 46-goal man Kevin Webb—suiting up again this season.
Brent Greene, who netted 39 goals and 33 assists last season, and Vince Kurszewski (16-34-50) will pace the Nipigon attack.
But the shortage of proven scoring talent means the play of starting goalie Daniel Beardy—second in the league last year in wins (15) and third in goals-against average (3.14)—becomes even more critical to the Hawks.
Both games go at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena.