It took the Dryden Ice Dogs 40 minutes to show some bite, but the Borderland Thunder defence hung on for a 3-2 win on the road last night.
The win extended the first-place Thunder’s (20-8-8) lead to five points over Dryden (18-10-7) in the Superior International Junior Hockey League standings.
Kevin Webb netted a power-play goal in the opening minute of the third period to stake the Thunder to a 3-0 lead before the Ice Dogs scored twice in a 90-second span.
Steven Roy popped a loose puck past Thunder goalie Rob Hrabec, then Brian Rankin eluded two defenders to backhand a low shot into the net with 10:42 left to turn the once-quiet 800 on hand at the Dryden Recreation Centre into a loud bunch.
But the Thunder calmed things down—winning several key faceoffs thanks to Josh Baxter and a big point shot block by David Lloyd in the dying minutes.
“We rebounded after our timeout and hung on to the lead,” Thunder head coach Wayne Strachan said.
“I think the guys we put on the ice—and Rob [Hrabec]—in that last minute are guys we look to to play big defensively in that situation,” he added.
The Thunder certainly dominated play in the first two periods. With five minutes left in the first, defenceman Jay Philips intercepted a Dryden outlet pass at his own blueline to create an odd-man rush and poked the puck by Ice Dog goalie Ryan McGillis.
In the second, Ian Lockman capped off two solid minutes of Thunder forechecking to bang in his 12th of the year off a Webb pass from behind the net.
Borderland had outshot Dryden 27-17 after the second period before the Ice Dogs fired 16 at Hrabec in the third to the Thunder’s six.
But getting that early jump was key, said Strachan.
“Even with those two [Ice Dog] goals, I thought for the most part we carried the play throughout the game,” he noted. “I wouldn’t say we figured them out. They’re missing some key players right now.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, jump on them early and get that lead.”
But Dryden head coach Al Trotz was not a happy man after his team dropped their second game to the Thunder in eight days.
“It’s a pretty big disappointment with the way we came out. We can’t be proud of that,” he remarked. “Right now, the top dog in the league is the Thunder. I give full marks to that squad.”
In related news, the Thunder swept the SIJHL’s weekly player awards yesterday. Webb was named offensive player while Hrabec took home his fourth defensive player honour.
Webb netted 11 points in four games last week in reclaiming the league scoring lead. Meanwhile, Hrabec won all three of his starts and is still undefeated since joining the Thunder in late November (10-0-3).
Next up for the Thunder is a pair of games against the Thunder Bay Snowplowing Wolves here Saturday and Sunday.
The league’s inaugural all-star game, featuring the top SIJHL players against the OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, will be played here Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.