Tillsonburg Thunder's 7-6 overtime win Saturday night was far from a classic, but the South Division's first-place senior men's hockey team will take it.
"We've been doing that lately," said Thunder coach Jim Baxter. "We get a good, healthy lead and for some reason... we give it back to them. We stop playing, we stop skating, we stop doing everything we want to do."
Tillsonburg Thunder shot ahead 4-1 in the first, fell behind 6-5 in the second, then landed on their feet in overtime to beat Komoka Classics in overtime at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena.
A 5-1 second-period was erased when Komoka crashed back with five straight goals, four of them power plays, including two in the latter stages of a five-minute major to put them up 6-5.
"Our PK (penalty kill) wasn't good tonight," said Baxter. "We've been a good penalty killing team all year, but we were too soft. Way too soft. Every goal was around the net. If they're moving it around, make four nice passes and score, that's one thing. But when we stand and watch – that shouldn't happen."
Nathan Peacock, with his second of the night, replied for the Thunder sweeping in a shot from the edge of the crease to knot the score at 6-6 at 18:16 of the third.
"I think both teams tightened up defensively in the third," said Peacock. "We had a definite letdown in the second. We let them carry the play, and I'd say we played soft. They capitalized on our mistakes. We have some things to work on – our PK. Their entry into our zone was very easy. We'll have to go to the drawing board and work on that.
"It kind of goes in waves," said Peacock, noting stretches of strong puck possession in the third. "We were strong when we were strong and soft when we were soft. I guess that's fair to say. First period was very strong, third period was very strong."
Tillsonburg made a goaltending change to start the third wih Cody Vinnai, signed to the team Saturday night, taking over for Neil Pittock, and the teams played 18 more minutes of scoreless hockey, sending them into a five-minute sudden death OT.
"It wasn't his (Pittock's) fault, but four power-play goals do not help either. I just thought we needed a change going into the third," said Baxter. "We did what we needed to do in the third. We played well, didn't give up a lot and took it to them, I thought."
Travis Lisabeth fired Tillsonburg's winner from the right-side faceoff dot at 4:26 in overtime, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Jordan Skinner.
"It was over pretty quick," noted Peacock. "It was a nice shot by Travis."
While Peacock and Kevin Galerno each had a pair of goals, linemate Adam Vandepoele added one goal... and a physical presence.
"I'm a grinder on the line," said Vandepoele. "We all move the puck well, we all like to pass.
"Tonight it was just a battle. They're a good team, they've got a lot of good goal scorers, you just try to keep them off the board. To get that one by Peaker to tie it, 6-6, that one was huge."
Baxter credited Komoka for playing well with a short bench.
"They had 13 guys, but they had the right 13 guys.
"We were sure they'd get tired... but they didn't quit. We had to keep the puck in their end and we did it for two periods. Those guys are all offensive juggernaughts, but nobody likes to play defence, no forward likes to be in their own end.
"We're not physical enough. I know it's tough to be, being an offensive team and having the puck a lot, but we get away from it. They only had four D – and we're not hitting them at all? It's too easy, we were making it too easy for them.
"But we got the two points. Didn't want to give up a point, but... I'm okay with it when we're down 6-5 going into the third."
The Thunder continue to lead the WOAA Senior Hockey South Division with a 12-1 record, two points ahead of Tavistock and Clinton, and six clear of fourth-place Komoka.
Pittock finished the game with 32 saves, and Vinnai 10.
"We have three good 'tenders here," said Baxter. "It just helps to have the third option. Ben (Thomas) is 8-0 for us. And Neil's been awesome for us. That's all we can expect – guys who go out there and give it all. Tonight it wasn't his night, but it's okay, it happens. This is one of the toughest leagues around to play goalie because you have one practice a week, and you might not play every week."
"I think we're strong in net," said Peacock. "We have numerous options, some flexibility."
"I'd say they're all good in their separate ways," said Vandepoele. "All really good – we'll have to see what happens with that."
With six imports on the team, one of the imports will have to be released at the Jan. 10 deadline.
"We'll see what happens," said Baxter. "It's not going to be easy, I know that."
TEDDY BEAR TOSS
Next Saturday, Dec. 14, is the annual Tillsonburg Thunder Teddy Bear Toss Night at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena. Goderich (1-13-0) will be in town with a 7:30 opening faceoff. Bring your Teddy Bears and toss them to the ice when the Thunder score their first goal – the stuffed toys will be collected for The Salvation Army Christmas hampers.
Tillsonburg 7, Komoka 6 OT
16:35 Tillsonburg, Brad Jones
15:36 Tillsonburg, Kevin Galerno (Adam Wallace)
11:44 Tillsonburg, Adam Vandepoele (Kevin Galerno, Pat Ouellet)
6:16 Tillsonburg, Nathan Peacock (Kevin Galerno, Brad Streib)
19:36 Tillsonburg PP, Kevin Galerno (Jordan Skinner, Jason Skinner)
18:16 Tillsonburg, Nathan Peacock (Adam Wallace)
4:26 Tillsonburg, Travis Lisabeth (Jordan Skinner)