Thunder open playoffs here tomorrow night

It’s playoff time—and it’s also the start of the Borderland Thunder’s “Quest for the Dudley.”
That was the inscription the players chose for the T-shirts they had printed up along with their nicknames etched in black block letters along the front.
“We just made them last night,” Thunder forward Josh McAndrew, also known as WAHRDOG, said after practice last Friday afternoon.
“I think it was either [Aaron] Boyer or [Kurt] Hogard that came up with [the slogan], and we won’t be satisfied unless we go all the way,” McAndrew added.
The first step to holding that Dudley Hewitt Cup (the trophy awarded to Canada’s top Junior ‘A’ team) begins tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena when the Thunder host the Dryden Ice Dogs in Game 1 of their best-of-seven semi-final series.
Game 2 goes here Saturday at 2 p.m. before the series resumes in Dryden for Games 3 and 4 on March 23 and March 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Game 5, if necessary, is slated for March 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena, with Game 6, if necessary, on March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in Dryden.
If a Game 7 is necessary, it will be played back at the Ice for Kids Arena on April 2 at 7:30 p.m.
The Thunder had beaten the Ice Dogs in their first six regular-season contests this year, but then went 2-4 over their final six starting from Jan. 26.
But this is the playoffs?
“Playoffs are always the hottest ticket,” said Thunder head coach Dave Allison, who will be back behind the bench tomorrow night after serving a six-game suspension for his involvement in the Feb. 22 brawl between the Thunder and—who else?—the Ice Dogs.
“This is the time when the real season begins,” echoed Thunder forward Brock Harling. “Guys are starting to get excited, the locker-room is picking up, and practices are picking up.”
The Thunder ended their season last Tuesday (March 8) with a 3-0 loss against the Ice Dogs.
And though they were the first team in the SIJHL to conclude their 48-game regular season (the other four teams wrapped up play over the weekend), the Thunder are treating the nine-day break as an advantage rather than a hindrance.
“It gives a chance for us to all get on the same page again and lets the injured players get rested up for the playoffs,” reasoned forward Andrew Dault.
This series is coming against an Ice Dogs team that knocked the Thunder out of last year’s playoffs—in overtime of Game 7. And like Goku of “DragonBall,” the veteran players will be harnessing and unleashing the anger and disillusionment they felt a year ago.
“Me and Hogie [Hogard] were both on the ice for that, and that goal still burns us,” said McAndrew.
“I was the one that laid down to block the shot and it bounced over top of me and then somehow went in,” he recalled. “We think about it all the time, but it drives us harder.
“We saw how the 20-year-olds felt last year when they were gone and we don’t want to go through that,” McAndrew added.
So what are some of the predictions in a series that pits a 30-15-3 team (Thunder) against a team that amassed just a 24-24-0 record (Ice Dogs)?
“It’s going to be an all-out battle, but I say we sweep them,” said Harling. “It’s going to be a good match-up. It’s going to be just two teams battling out there.
“As much as you want it happen, I really don’t think that she’s going to go four games,” countered Dault. “It’s going to be a battle, so I’d say five or six games for us to get by them.”
Whatever the results, this is for certain as stated by Dault—“The real season begins right now.”
The other semi-final series will pit the first-place Fort William First Nation North Stars against the fourth-place K&A Variety Golden Hawks, with the two winners meeting in the best-of-seven final for the SIJHL crown.