The Tillsonburg Thunder needed a little of their third period in the second.
“We’ve just got to play a full game, 60 minutes,” said Thunder forward Justin Salt following a 4-3 WOAA Men’s Hockey playoff loss to the visiting Komoka Classics Saturday evening at the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena.
“We need to come out the first 10 minutes of the game, rather than waiting for something to happen to get us into the game.”
Power play and shorthanded goals by Komoka were instigating factors in a third period through which Tillsonburg did everything in its gameplan save put enough pucks into the back of the net.
The Classics’ Erik Stoyanovich backhanded home his second of the night, a shorthanded effort off the right wing with 9:08 remaining in regulation time for a 4-2 lead, exacerbating Thunder protests the rush had been preceded by an additional hooking penalty. A subsequent hooking minor to Komoka’s Mike Findlater gave Tillsonburg a two-man advantage, capitalized on with 8:17 left in regulation time. The goal was the product of a scramble off a set play, a slapshot teed up from the centre of the ice between the points. Adam Wallace, who had a swipe at the rebound, and Kevin Galerno drew assists as Salt pounced on the loose puck, backhanding it home inside the right post.
The Thunder continued to press for the duration of a period it fired 20 shots on K.J. Robinson in, pulling goalie Cody Vinnai for an extra attacker with 31 seconds remaining. Komoka’s Andrew Carey was flagged for tripping, giving Tillsonburg a six-on-four advantage in skaters for the final 26 seconds, but the Classics managed to hang on through a couple of frantic scrambles, taking a 2-1 advantage in the series as a result.
“We came out banging and crashing, driving to the net, got a lucky one, gets everyone going,” said Salt. “But sometimes it’s a little too late.”
The teams had exited the first period square at two, Tillsonburg battling back from a 2-0 deficit on Komoka goals just nine seconds apart (Stoyanovich and Ryan Fletcher, at the 4:43 and 4:42 marks of the opening frame, respectively) on goals by Ryan Gaertner (from Shane Balcomb and Jordan Skinner) and Jason Skinner (Jordan Skinner and Travis Lisabeth).
The Thunder struggled to generate consistent offence through a goalless second period in which Tillsonburg was outshot 13-4. Ironically, its best shift of the frame was capped by a scrum on which a slashing minor to Komoka and a double-minor for spearing to Tillsonburg with 10 seconds remaining resulted in an early third-period power-play for the visitors. It was upgraded into a five-on-three on a boarding minor 36 seconds into the final 20 minutes, capitalized on 19 seconds later by Komoka’s Ryan Stephenson.
The series is scheduled to continue this (Sunday) afternoon in Komoka with a 3:30 p.m. opening faceoff. The Classics are a finesse team, credited Salt, stating a broad gameplan of better defensive zone coverage, cutting down on their ‘space’ and getting Tillsonburg’s cycle going.
“Play 60 minutes, a full game,” he added. “And the biggest thing we’ve got to do is hit them, bang and crash, don’t give them time.”
Galerno was wearing the ‘C’ Saturday night for the Thunder, in place of injured captain Brad Streib who confirmed a shot he took to the jaw a week earlier, had resulted in a fracture.
“Just a hairline,” he said, “my teeth and jaw are straight.”
He has been restricted to a soft food diet, and ‘no physical activity,’ by his doctor.
“I’m thinking no physical activity means hockey.”
The injury is ‘getting better every day,’ however says Streib, displaying a ‘jaw visor’ attachment for his helmet.
“I’m hoping by next week you’ll see me playing.”