Thunder suddenly in search of answers

Class is officially in session for the Borderland Thunder.
After being swept by the Fort William First Nation North Stars last weekend in Thunder Bay, getting outscored 18-1 over the two games, the Thunder had to not only cope with Monday’s practice, but they had to answer a few questions from head coach Dave Allison.
The self-improving assignment was simple—answer three questions—but was badly needed for the team that went into the weekend series with confidence as the top team in the SIJHL, but left utterly humiliated and knocked down to second place with a 12-3-1 mark.
“If you sit down with a piece of paper like this, then you’re analyzing and you’re realizing how you can learn from those mistakes,” Thunder forward Aaron Boyer said as he filled out his assignment that was headlined “Room For Improvement.”
First question: Three reasons why the North Stars are better?
Boyer’s answers were 1). They move the puck 2). They take away options and 3). They don’t stop skating.
Second question: Three ways the Thunder can close the gap?
Answer—1). Move our feet constantly 2). Take their guys out of the play and 3). Come back and give our defence options.
Third question: Three ways I can improve.
Answer—1). Shoot the puck more often 2). I can finish better and 3). Defensive hold-ups.
No one likes to lose like that, but if you’re going to, you might as well learn from it,” Boyer reasoned.
Entering their series against the North Stars, the Thunder had scored 67 goals in 14 games (4.8 goals/game) while allowing only 24 (1.71 goals/game).
On the other hand, Fort William—now ranked as the 15th best junior ‘A’ hockey team in Canada—came in with an 11-0-1 record, averaging almost seven goals a game while only allowing 1.71.
“I think we dealt with hope. We hoped we would play well instead of preparing and knowing that we were going to play well,” said Allison, who saw the North Stars take twice as many shots as his team did over the two games (83-40).
“The North Stars were much more committed, and they were much better . . . they’re not wasting time or waiting to see if other teams can catch them,” he added.
Like a champion being knocked out for the first time, the Thunder hadn’t experienced such a feeling so far this season. They were the ones dishing out the punishment, not absorbing it.
Sure, they had one brief glimpse of disappointment when they lost a close game to the K&A Variety Golden Hawks here, the got right back up again.
But this was different.
They not only lost, they got beat. Beat bad. Beat harshly and foolishly by a North Stars team which didn’t take anything for granted, and which instead of “hoping” to play well knew it was going to.
And the Thunder players knew it.
“There wasn’t enough heart on our team. Nobody was stepping up,” said Thunder forward Sean Councillor, who missed Saturday’s 9-0 loss because of a sprained shoulder.
“We have to come together as a team because most of us are running around not knowing what we’re doing,” Councillor added.
“Everyone has got to look in themselves and see what went wrong,” echoed defenceman Kurt Hogard. “You try not to get depressed on thinking about it too much.
“The game’s over and you can’t do anything, but you’ve got to think about it.”
“It was pretty embarrassing,” agreed forward Tyler Barker. “I’m not really sure what happened. We never came to play hockey obviously, and I don’t know what happened.”
But what are they going to do about it? It’s one thing to take a pen and fill out answers to questions, but it’s something else to actually apply it.
The Thunder now must ask themselves if they are willing to dedicate themselves to get back to the form they had at the beginning of the season, where they were improving their play with every practice and game, or are they satisfied with riding in neutral?
“I believe that they want to get better, and we’re in a hurry to get better,” said Allison.
“We got soft,” he added. “You have success, and you think it’s because you do things the same way every day, but we got away from good habits, we got away from our standards, and it came back and kicked us in the [butt].”
The Thunder have until next Wednesday (Nov. 24) to think about what they need to do to get back on track. They’ll be in Dryden to face the Ice Dogs in what will be a crucial rebound game.
“You’ve got to dust yourself off and get back up and keep working hard because we know where the bar is set,” said Hogard. “The bar is set at the North Stars.”

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