For the first time in a long time, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder has its back against the ropes.
As of Feb. 25, Airdrie’s junior-B hockey team is down 2-1 in its second-round, best-of-seven playoff series against the Mountainview Colts.
Despite the setback, head coach Derek Stamp ensures the team is not out.
“Overall, we feel pretty good heading into Game 4,” he said.
As a result of its first-place finish in the North Division, the Thunder – the defending Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) champion – enjoyed a bye through the first round of the playoffs.
However, the two-week rest might have been a curse in disguise, as Mountainview – fresh off its first-round victory over the Stettler Lightning – came out hot to take a two-game lead.
“The Colts were coming off a huge win, and there’s some energy and momentum that comes with that,” Stamp said. “It took our guys a little bit of time to get ramped up to playoff hockey.”
The Feb. 21 series opener, held at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, saw Airdrie take an early lead after a first-period snipe from 21-year-old forward Brayden Dunn.
The game continued without further goalmouth action until the Colts tied it up in the last 10 minutes, forcing overtime. Smelling blood, the Didsbury-based squad put the lid on the match-up with an early OT goal from Brandon Rude.
“It was a close game and both teams played well,” Stamp said. “You have to tip your hat – the Colts were relentless on the puck all night, and they were rewarded with two points for their efforts.”
Playing in Didsbury the following evening, Mountainview doubled its series lead with an 8-6 victory. Jordan McConnell opened his 2020 playoff account with a hat trick for the Thunder, while Ty Petrie, Tristan Paquette and Dunn also chipped in with goals.
As is often the case in fixtures between these teams, Game 2 was a physical battle that saw each side concede 13 penalties.
“It’s always chippy playing against Mountainview,” said 18-year-old forward Nathan Fox, a junior rookie.
Despite going down 2-0 in the series, Stamp said the Thunder was still confident heading into Game 3, held Feb. 24 in Airdrie.
“The game in Didsbury [Game 2] obviously it didn’t go our way, but it was almost easy to identify some of the breakdowns, both from a coaching standpoint and from the guys in the room,” he said. “With that level of accountability, we never found that being down 2-0 was devastating or something that we couldn’t overcome.”
Though the Thunder was outshot 49-36 in Game 3, Airdrie came out victorious with a hard-fought 4-3 win. Goals came from Paquette, Petrie, Zachary Dubois and Luke Jensen.
“We were better [in Game 3], though we still saw some of the breakdowns that cost us in the first two games,” Stamp said. “We also saw an improvement and saw some of our secondary scorers start to step up and create chances.”
Game 4 takes place in Didsbury Feb. 26, while Game 5 will be held Feb. 28 at 8:15 p.m. at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
Game 6, if necessary, will go Feb. 29 in Didsbury, while Game 7 is pencilled in for March 2 at 8:15 p.m. in Airdrie.