Thunder looked to regroup against lowly-Wolves Sunday

Several Borderland Thunder players will be getting into the Christmas spirit on Saturday as they lend their time during the “Winter Wonderland” festivities on Scott Street.
But come Sunday, the third-place Thunder (7-7-5) will be looking to rekindle that winning spirit as they host the last-place Thunder Bay Wolves (1-13-1) in hopes of snapping a seven-game winless streak.
“We’re trying to be upbeat and positive,” Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan said on his team’s confidence at practice this week.
“We’re looking at the first 19 games [of the season] as being over. We’re looking forward to turning things around,” he added.
Ironically, it was a 6-1 win against the Wolves in Thunder Bay back on Sept. 29 which spurred the Thunder to a then-league best 5-1-2 start.
The game also was memorable for a 13-player brawl which erupted in the final two minutes, resulting in a slew of one-game suspensions. The Thunder haven’t played the Wolves since.
“I think there’s some blood that’s still boiling,” said Strachan. “I know the boys remember, but I think we have to concentrate on getting the win.”
Wolves head coach Dave Simpson said his team doesn’t want to be known throughout the league as a band of “thugs.”
“Our team isn’t like that. We just try and play a good brand of hockey,” said Simpson, himself a rough-and-tumble customer during his junior days with the Fort William Hurricanes who regularly did battle with the old Fort Frances Royals.
“We don’t have any more toughness than any other team in the league,” he stressed.
Holding on to leads has been a problem of late for the Thunder. They surrendered costly third-period goals in both home games against the Iron Range Yellow Jackets last weekend en route to a tie and loss.
Sunday’s game is the first of four-straight against the Wolves. The Thunder will travel to Thunder Bay next weekend for three games at the Tournament Centre.
“If we dictate the pace Sunday, we’ll let them know how the four games will be,” noted Strachan.
The combination of Josh Baxter and Ryan Hilfer played well last weekend and will be looked upon to provide some offence—which recently has been provided solely by Matt Johnson and Justin Bodnarchuk.
The duo was partnered with newcomer Chad Baldwin on the first line and gave the Yellow Jackets constant headaches.
By garnering most of the team’s recent starts, Tom Iwaniec appears to be Borderland’s number-one goalie—for now. The rest of the roster remained intact this week despite rumblings of personnel changes being in the works.
Meanwhile, the Wolves will have a busy couple of days leading up to their game here. They’ll visit the top-ranked Dryden Ice Dogs tonight and tomorrow.
Simpson said his team is one of the youngest in the Superior International Junior Hockey League, carrying nine Midget players on their roster.
“[Development] is the approach we’ve taken,” he said. “We’ve been competitive in every game. Hopefully the approach will pay off in the long run.”
Game time is 3 p.m. at the “Ice for Kids” Arena. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for students/seniors.