Thunder out to prove something

Andrew Dault had the opportunity to do something that fans of hockey don’t often see in our great game.
With 1,125 seconds having passed in the first period, and the score knotted at notta between the Borderland Thunder and the Dryden Ice Dogs last Friday here, Dault saw an opening, reacted to it, placed an effort, and . . .
But before we get into anymore details about the play, let’s give it a background to better understand its significance.
Entering the game, the Thunder were annoyed. They were annoyed with the effort they brought in their game with the K&A Variety Golden Hawks the week before. They lost that game. Lost it 5-3. Lost a game they should’ve won. Their first loss of the season. They were wrathful, flabbergasted, nettled, indignant, and just a tad peeved off.
“Everyone just pretty much took a look at their own play and said, ‘I personally have to step it up’, and every guy put it on their shoulders and did that,” said Thunder forward Aaron Boyer.
They got back to basics. Skated hard in practice. And refocused.
The brisk Friday night arrived. And they arrived with an 11-1-1 record, which was still good enough for the top spot in the SIJHL. The anthems were heard. The puck dropped. And the first period began.
And what began was an effort that seemed similar to the one they brought the week before. Only three shots were taken by the Thunder (mind you the Ice Dogs only had six shots in the period) leading up to Dault’s play—Oh, I almost forgot.
. . . Ian Lockman, who was playing his first game this season, was in the box for a roughing penalty, and the Ice Dogs were nipping at the Thunder’s heels.
Dault was in forechecking mode, which is usually how he is all game, and was at the Ice Dogs’ blue line as they were about to start a rush.
“I just stepped up and hit a guy, and I came back in the zone, and the guy got the puck back and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. I just tried to stop the puck, and it bounced out and I chipped it past the guy. I basically caught him flat footed, and he tried to hook me, and I brushed him off and I came down for the breakaway,” described Dault.
Short-handed. On a breakaway. In desperate need of a goal. A Hollywood producer couldn’t have inked a better scenario.
“There are so many things going on in your mind, and you don’t really know what happened until it’s actually done. Sometimes you score, sometimes you miss. And if you miss you say, ‘Maybe I should’ve done this, or maybe I should’ve done that’, but if you score it’s always a great feeling,” said Dault.
He did score on the play. Brought relief to the team. Went five-hole on the poor Dryden keeper, who would see 28 shots in the game, and save only 25, which game the Thunder a 4-1 decision (one goal was an empty netter), as the other Thunder goals came courtesy of Boyer, Lockman, and Tanner Kaemingh.
“We were a lot more physical and we were moving our feet, but we’re still not where we can be, and that is the most encouraging thing, because they did bounce back, and we’ve got to maintain a humbleness and that hunger to improve,” said head coach Dave Allison.
Players that stuck out from today’s game for you coach?
“It was nice to see Lockman get that third goal, and it also goes to show you that he can play. We know he’s tough, but when he plays like that for us and in a physical way, then that’s encouraging,” Allison answered.
“Getting [David] Gooch back really helped us, and Dennis Morrison adds skill to the back end, and [Kurt] Hogard was feeling better and those are key guys for us.
“I think [Tyler] Barker is really understanding how to play. I thought [Jared] Woods is getting better, and Steven Sus just continues to do the little things, and [Sean] Councillor is getting into better shape, which is encouraging, because no one can handle him,” he added.
And the though last week’s loss made the past six days tough ones, the team having to say farewell to a few players also made it a difficult.
Three players were reassigned—Bryan Schallenhammer (to the Southeast Blades of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League), P.J. Stodgell (to the Blades), and Ryan Calhoun (apparently to the Golden Hawks)—and the victory against Dryden was bitter sweet for a few.
“Whenever you’re in the trenches with a guy and you’re going to war with him every night, it’s hard because the best friendships are hockey friendships,” said Boyer about his former comrades.
“You sit across from them in the dressing room and next thing you know they’re gone, but I wish them all the best,” Boyer added.
Are they better players for having played with the Thunder coach?
“You sure hope so, because this is an excellent organization and sometimes people think that the grass is greener on the other side, and it usually isn’t,” Allison answered.
The Thunder must now put their full focus on this weekend’s key games in Thunder Bay against the North Stars, who sit in second place with an undefeated record in 11 games, and tied the Thunder in the first game of the season, but haven’t played each other since.
“Everyone on the team has been looking at the schedule since the beginning of the season saying, ‘When do we play the North Stars?’. It’s the key matchup in the league, so it’s going to be a blast,” said Boyer.
Added Dault when asked if the upcoming series will help prove to people they belong in first: “That’s the biggest thing. Everyone says, ‘Oh, their first, but the North Stars are this and that’, and in our first game we went over there and tied them.
“I’m sure they’ve improved, but we’ve also improved and I think it’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully we’ll get her done,” he added.