Thunder hit road for weekend set

Any rust the Borderland Thunder may have developed over the Christmas holidays certainly was shaken off with their rescheduled game against the Thunder Bay Snowplowing Wolves on Sunday afternoon in Atikokan.
But after playing well late to pull out a 5-0 win, leaving the team just two points behind the front-running Dryden Ice Dogs, Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan said his players are looking to get back into the swing of things as they travel to Spooner, Wis. this weekend for a pair of games against the Northwest Wisconsin Knights.
“It’ll be a tough set. They’re going to be in their own rink and move the puck well,” Strachan said. “We’re going to have to match them and be intense and physical and carry the play.
“We’ll have to work our hardest.”
The Thunder (14-7-7) had earned a 6-6 tie and 5-2 win over the Knights here back in October.
The Knights sport a 29-13-3 record overall, but are just 6-6-3 in their 24-game Superior International Junior Hockey League schedule—including a combined 0-2-3 against the SIJHL’s top three teams (the Thunder, Ice Dogs, and Feathermen Hawks).
A very popular team in their home rink, the Northwest Sports Complex, Strachan said playing in front a lively crowd on the road is something which can only help a team come together.
“[Playing on the road] is certainly motivation. It will be good for us,” he said. “Once playoff time comes around, we’re going to have to play in that environment.”
The Thunder’s game Sunday against the Wolves (1-27-2) was a make-up date after an accident on the Trans-Canada Highway prevented the team from travelling to Thunder Bay last month.
The Thunder were told of the make-up date just last week.
Tyler Barker netted his second and third goals of the season in the win while Chad Baldwin, Ryan Hilfer, and Kyle Prystupa added singles.
The game was close for much of the way, with the Thunder holding only a slim 2-0 lead after the second period, before getting three late goals to put the game out of reach.
The win was their seventh-straight over the Wolves—and fifth in a four-week stretch.
“I don’t think we played our best game [against the Wolves],” admitted Strachan. “We took a little bit for granted that we were going to beat them.
“About halfway through the first period, they put the pressure on us.
“[But] in the second half of the game, guys started moving their feet and put a lot more pressure.”
Backup goalie Tom Iwaniec earned his third shutout of the season.
Fellow netminder Rob Hrabec said he was impressed with how the team came out to play the game on short notice.
“Everyone looks good so far,” he remarked. “It looked like everyone took good care of themselves over the break.”
“Maybe we would have liked a little more practice times, just to skate a little more,” said Strachan. “For the most part, we handled it pretty good. [But] our effort will have to be better.”
The Thunder’s next home game are slated Jan. 18 against the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs and the Dryden Ice Dogs Jan. 22.