The ugly lump on the left side of Tillsonburg Thunder captain Brad Streib’s jaw unwittingly provided the perfect metaphor.
“Not bad, not great…,” he assessed outside the team dressing room Saturday evening inside the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena, following a 9-4 loss to the visiting Komoka Classics. Streib didn’t believe anything was broken as the result of a puck to the face during the game’s opening shift, (but) “a couple of teeth rattled.”
With a couple of inches of latitude allowed for poetic licence, the Thunder (figuratively) and Streib (literally) had both taken one on the chin.
“Pretty much,” he agreed, “summed it up right in the first 10 seconds of the game.”
Streib took the first blow early, two more followed within 90 seconds as Komoka’s Joey Pikull opened scoring at the 1:06 mark of the first and just 26 seconds later, Erik Stoyanovich made it a 2-0 advantage. Joel Martinelli added a power-play marker at the 4:21 mark of the first, upping the lead to three. Tillsonburg’s Jason Skinner got the Thunder on the board with 4:28 to play in the period, assisted by Travis Lisabeth and Adam Vandepoele, but the Classics’ Jason Furlong restored a three-goal lead 1:19 after that. Mike Noyes buried the visitors’ second of five power-play goals on the night, seven seconds prior to the end of a first period in which Tillsonburg was outshot 16-5, outscored 5-1 and effectively had the WOAA Senior Men’s Hockey South Division championship series ‘gauntlet’ thrown down by its visitors.
“They did,” agreed Streib. “They took it to us in the first five or 10 minutes.”
The Thunder tried to dig out of a four-goal hole in the second, opening scoring as Kevin Galerno snapped home a shot from the slot at the 4:34 mark. Vandepoele pulled Tillsonburg within two 2:05 later from a similar range in front, assisted by Lisabeth and Jordan Skinner.
Stoyanovich countered on a five-on-three Komoka power-play 4:24 prior to the period’s close, but Tillsonburg’s Terry Lammens turned its back half inside out with a short-handed effort high to the glove side, assisted by Nathan Peacock and Adam Wallace, who initiated the scoring play by teeing up a slapshot on the rush from the left point.
The Thunder entered period three trailing by two goals, but was unable to get closer against a Komoka squad effectively protecting a two-goal lead.
“We had four shots in the third period,” pointed out Thunder coach Jim Baxter. “Not the response I’m looking for from a lot of guys.”
Komoka’s two-goal advantage was extended to three by Drew Collinson, keeping and rattling a shot off the far post on a bad-bounce two-on-one roughly midway through the frame. Additional power-play markers late in the contest, Stoyanovich on an attempted centring pass with 4:12 remaining; and Noyes on a five-on-three rebound 1:08 later; rounded the 9-4 final. Komoka goalie K.J. Robinson picked up the victory, stopping 18 of 22 shots directed on his net, while Cody Vinnai faced 44 shots in the loss, Tillsonburg’s first on home ice this season.
“It’s tough to swallow because I know we’re a lot better team,” said Baxter. “Not the way you want to lose at home, but maybe it wakes us up.”
Komoka is a skilled hockey club, credited Baxter, and the Thunder, who led the league defensively (with a goals against average of 2.91, tied with Mapleton), need to get back to that gameplan, rather than end-to-end shinny with the Classics.
“If we don’t come to skate, skate and hit, we’re not going to win this series.”
Streib says Tillsonburg may have experienced something of a letdown through game one following a tough, emotional series win over Clinton, and additionally may have taken a little for granted. On the plus side, “It’s not a football game, it’s not one game, it’s a long series.”
Game two is scheduled for Wednesday evening in Komoka at 7:30 p.m., with game three back in Tillsonburg Saturday evening for a 7:30 p.m. start.
Streib says Tillsonburg needs to be more physical as the series continues and focus more on the defensive base which led to the team’s success this season.
“And a better effort,” he concluded. “From everybody.”