Entering the final month of the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) regular season, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder are hoping to secure second place in their division – a finish that would earn them a first-round bye through the playoffs.
Airdrie's junior B hockey team is currently in third place of the HJHL's north division with a 17-12-2 record. Thanks to their 36 points, the Thunder are one point behind the second-place Mountainview Colts, although the Airdronians have a game in hand over their Didsbury rivals.
The Thunder has a healthy 12-point lead over the north division's fourth place team, the Rocky Rams. With seven games left, that means a top-three spot in the north is almost mathematically secured.
“We’ve had our moments, we’ve had our ups and downs,” said head coach Randy Buckle. “But the team is coming together. Our power play is clicking a little bit better and the boys are committing a little more, since they know the playoffs are coming. We’re just gearing up for that now.”
The team is coming off a split weekend. The Thunder beat the High River Flyers 5-4 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena last Friday night (Jan. 13), but nearly allowed the High Riverites back into the contest after taking a 5-1 lead in the first two periods.
Team scoring leader Joey Haden scored twice for Airdrie, while Mathew McDonald, Jack Turton, and Tyson Sandhu also added to the hosts' total.
Haden's goals over the weekend put him at 22 for the 2022-23 season. The 19-year-old has 36 points this season, placing him 14th in the HJHL's scoring charts.
“Joey has always had that scoring touch around the net,” Buckle said. “Even last year when he joined us later in the season, he was scoring at a rapid pace. He’s probably one of the guys we lean on to score goals.”
Haden said he's been pleased with his performances this season, but was quick to commend his line-mates for contributing to his haul of goals.
“Obviously my teammates have been a huge help – no matter who I've played with this year, whether it's Cathcart, or Jobin, Couling, or Chapman,” he said. “They've all been a great help. You can't score by yourself, obviously. Every goal usually has a nice assist behind it.”
After the win over High River, Airdrie then faltered on the road two days later, losing 4-2 to the Sylvan Lake Wranglers, who are the first-place team in the north division this year. Captain Dace Carlson and Jared Miller tallied for the Thunder, but the visitors were out-shot 36-29 at the NexSource Centre.
The Thunder's next game will present an opportunity to extend their lead over the fourth-place Rocky Rams, who will come to Airdrie on Friday night (Jan. 20) for a tilt at the Ron Ebbesen Arena. Puck-drop is at 8 p.m. Airdrie will then travel to Cochrane the following day to face the Cochrane Generals. That game gets underway at 7:30 p.m. at the Cochrane Arena
The team's focus in the last seven regular-season games will be producing a full, 60-minute effort, according to Haden.
“We definitely do struggle in the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes of the games,” he said. “We usually tend to pick it up in the second [period], but going into playoffs, we want to be able to play a full 60 and be rolling four lines.
“We really think this year that we have a good group. Right now we have some big games coming up, and we want to obviously...lock up that second spot. We can definitely make a pretty good run in the league. I'm excited to see what happens.”
For scores, schedules, and other info on the Thunder, visit Heritagejunior.com