Regardless of the outcome, on October 1st the Thunder Cats were playing regular-season hockey again, the first such game for the team in exactly 350 days since the 2020/2021 season got postponed on November 20th, 2020. It was their first game in front of fans since the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 playoffs (574 days, but who’s counting?).
The team, carefully crafted by GM and Head Coach Bill Rotheisler, came out in style stringing together four goals en route to a 4-0 win over the Fernie Ghostriders. The game was highlighted by a 34-save shutout from second-year goaltender Harmon Laser-Hume and a pair of goals from 17-year-old rookie defenseman Ethan Boutcher.
While on paper it looked as though the Cats breezed through 60 minutes and came out on top, Rotheisler saw the game through a different lens “Today the guys knew what they had to do and I know it was 4-0 but it felt like we grinded out a 4-0 win, it didn’t feel like we dominated them, but it felt like we controlled most of the play.”
Boutcher wasn’t the only Cat to tally a pair of points, Adam Redding and Sheldon Kwiatkowski both finished the game with two assists. Corbin Cockerill and Reece Nelson each scored, while two more; rookie defencemen, Ben Narowski and Blake Hiltermann, got in on the action, each nabbing a helper.
The next night Kimberley came to town looking for revenge after suffering a 6-3 loss to the Cats in the preseason and they returned the favor handing the Cats a 5-2 loss. After the game, however, Rotheisler was quick to point out that Kimberley shouldn’t necessarily get all the credit. “I didn’t think we played nearly as well as we should have.”. He acknowledged the cliche-esque answer but felt it held true to what the team expects of themselves “We have super high expectations with the group that we have and we’re disappointed in our effort tonight.”.
Despite carrying most of the play in the first period and outshooting Kimberley 15-9, it was the Dynamiters that struck first and took a 1-0 lead into the intermission. After surrendering four straight goals Nelson scored his second in as many games to get the Cats on the board six minutes into the third, and Narowski added another on a superb individual effort in the final 10 minutes, but that was as close as they would come.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Saturday’s game saw the return of the 6’3, soft-handed center Campbell McLean from Yorkton in the SJHL. And while the score may not reflect it on paper, goaltender Carlos Siso put together a strong outing in his first regular-season contest with the team after coming over from the Campbell River Storm in the VIJHL. Rotheisler commented on his body of work after the game “I thought despite [the score], Carlos played pretty good, he made some big stops. The reality is there was a completely different team in front of him, and the team knows it.”.
The Cats now embark on a 5-game roadtrip that takes them through all four teams in the Neil Murdoch division with a side trip to Invermere to take on the Columbia Valley Rockies. All those games can be seen on Hockeytv.com.
Next home game will be Saturday, October 23rd versus the Golden Rockets.