Thunder look to rock the Hawks

A difficult season has made for lower expectations for the Borderland Thunder.
Coming off of last year’s SIJHL championship, the Thunder were hoping to repeat as regular-season champs in their quest for a second-straight title.
But at 12-13-1-2 through their first 28 games, Borderland finds itself more than 20 points behind the league-leading Dryden Ice Dogs and second-place Fort William First Nation North Stars with just 20 games left until the playoffs.
That means more reachable goals have had to be adopted, such as wresting third place away from the Thunder Bay KC Bulldogs (12-14-2-3), who lead the Thunder by two points with Borderland holding three games in hand.
“We want to get back to .500 and we want to get third place,” said Thunder head coach Dave Allison, whose team heads east to tangle with the last-place K&A Variety Golden Hawks this Friday and Saturday night.
“The thinking is that with the other two teams battling so hard for first, it might be a letdown for the team that winds up in second,” Allison reasoned.
“With first and second out of the question, third place is a reasonable objective,” he added.
The Thunder are unbeaten against the Hawks in six meetings this season and also will look to improve on their 3-11-0-1 road record, which received somewhat of a boost last weekend against the Bulldogs in Thunder Bay.
The three points gained from a 4-3 overtime loss Friday night, coupled with a 5-3 win Saturday, almost matched the Thunder’s total of points on the road for the entire season.
The slow build towards regaining respectability had its growing pains Friday as the Thunder let a 3-0 second-period lead slip away from them.
Ryan Coceancic continued his fine play for the Bulldogs of late, scoring a hat trick, including the winner at 3:02 of the extra session.
The forward recently led the Thunder Bay Northern Hawks Junior ‘B’ team in scoring during a European tour over the Christmas break (10 points in five games).
Brady Laskowski had the other marker for Thunder Bay while Sean Councillor, new free agent acquisition Kyle Schroder, and Rob Scales supplied the offence for Borderland.
Ryan McManus made 50 saves to pick up the win while Dan Hoehne suffered just his second loss since returning from a five-week layoff due to a concussion.
The Thunder then dashed out to a 2-0 lead Saturday night on goals by Steve McLeod and Dennis Morrison, outshooting the Bulldogs 17-5 in the process.
Matt Laakso cut the margin in half early in the second, but Kurt Hogard countered with a power-play goal later in the frame to restore the Thunder’s two-goal lead.
Laakso collected his second goal just nine seconds after Hogard’s tally and then Adam Sergerie made it 3-3 midway through the third.
But Nate Weossner would don the hero’s cape for the Thunder, cashing in on a breakaway later in the period for the game-winner. Andrew Dault later added an empty-netter for insurance to ice the victory.
The Thunder’s next home games are Jan. 23-24 against the North Stars.
< *c>New kids in town
In related news, the Thunder did some last-minute shuffling in accordance with Saturday’s deadline for all teams to pare their rosters to a maximum of 21 signed players.
Borderland added Schroder, a forward with the Ice Dogs last season who played with Dauphin of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League until mid-December.
He had been practising with the Thunder for some time, but didn’t receive his release from Dauphin until last week.
Borderland also acquired goalie Mike Downer from Sault Ste. Marie of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and defenceman P.J. Stodgell, who was with Warroad’s Junior ‘B’ squad.
Thunder general manager Brent Tookenay said Monday morning that there were “some issues that still needed to be dealt with this week” in regards to which players, if any, would be cut from the roster.