The Borderland Thunder are relishing a three-week break between action after an up-and-down stretch of 27 games to start their inaugural Superior Inter-national Junior Hockey League season.
“It’ll be a welcome break, especially after we’ve played 27 games in this four-month stretch,” said Thunder defenceman Jay Phillips. “After that, we’ll get ready for the home stretch.”
The Thunder currently are up, riding an eight-game unbeaten streak after dumping the last-place Thunder Bay Wolves 8-3 and 7-0 here last weekend.
They also moved into second place with a 13-7-7 record (33 points).
The Thunder had gone winless in seven games until roster changes late last month seemed to jump-start the team.
“We had to decide where we wanted to go. I think we’ve straightened out the ship and got it on track,” said Phillips.
Fears of stumbling out of the gate when they resume SIJHL action Jan. 11-12 in Spooner, Wis. against the Northwest Wisconsin Knights is not a concern for Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan.
“I think the group of guys we have—the leadership we have—that once we get back on the ice, we’ll be getting right back at it,” he remarked.
The Thunder certainly got back at it against the Wolves (1-24-2), winning their seventh- and eighth-straight against the last-place team with early offence thanks to strong forechecking.
On Friday night, Ian Lockman and Adam Sus netted first-period goals, then Chad Baldwin, Phillips, Matt Johnson, Clayton Windego, and Justin Bodnarchuk broke open the game with goals in the second.
Johnson added one more in the third.
“We got on them quickly, forechecked them hard,” said Strachan.
It was more of the same Saturday night as Kyle Prystupa, Baldwin, Lockman, Dallas Mosbeck, Phillips, David Lloyd, and Terry Parisien all scored to lead another balanced attack.
“It’s always good to see all three lines scoring,” noted Phillips. “Even that fourth line [Tyler Barker, Adam Sus, and Cole Hayward] has been in there pressing every game.”
Backup goalie Tom Iwaniec played most of the weekend between the pipes, coming in for starter Rob Hrabec midway through Friday night’s game (giving up the Wolves’ three goals) and then starting Saturday’s game, when he stopped 18 shots for his second shutout of the season.
Strachan and Wolves head coach Dave Simpson exchanged heated words across the bench during the third period of Saturday night’s game.
“I didn’t like some of things they did out there,” said Simpson.
Strachan said he was proud his players didn’t get into any major fights in either game—even though he said Simpson sent out several players to goad them.
“That’s something we talked about,” he said. “ [The Wolves] tend to be a chippy team all the time.
“We didn’t want anything to happen like losing players [to suspension] to a last-place team,” he added.