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Show your appreciation for veterans, first responders at Thunder home opener

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Tillsonburg Thunder hockey fans will be able to see the team play their WOSHL 2021-22 home opener Sunday, Nov. 7 at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena.

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It’s a special night for the Thunder, as their players and management will be honouring Tillsonburg Legion Br. 153 veterans before the game.

It is also First Responder Night – the Thunder have invited (free of charge) staff from Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital and Alexandra Hospital, Oxford County Paramedic Services (EMS), OPP, and Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services.

“We want people to come and show their appreciation to all the first responders and what they have done for us,” said Thunder owner/president Mike Holly. “Hopefully we’re turning a page now with (COVID-19 restrictions) opening up in the spring.”

The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. according to WOSHL, however TMHI’s Bob Tansley Memorial AE minor hockey tournament wraps up Sunday (final game at 5 p.m.) so the Thunder puck drop might be slightly delayed.

COVID-19 protocol will be followed to enter the east side of the Tillsonburg Community Centre (the sliding glass doors will be the entry point). Contact tracing information (name and phone number for the community centre) and proof of double vaccination are necessary according to Ontario law.

“It might take a little bit longer to get people in,” said Holly. “We know screening is going to slow things down, but we’re going to do our best to get everybody in as soon as possible.”

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids.

It will be a licenced event – alcoholic beverages are limited to the Marwood Lounge.

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So far the Thunder, 3-2-0 after five games on the road, are middle of the pack in the new Western Ontario Super Hockey League.

Their Sunday opponent, Stratford Fighting Irish (2-4-1), beat them 4-1 in a pre-Halloween Oct. 30 tilt.

“We have a bit of a grudge match, Stratford beat us Saturday and we want to return the favour. Their goalie stood on his head. That happens – our goalie has stolen some too – but it’s not as much fun when it happens to you,” Holly added with a laugh.

“Stratford plays hard, it’s going to be a really good game on Sunday. They are younger guys but they don’t give up. Their one goaltender, we need to figure him out because … the guy was stopping everything under the sun. The one goal we got in the last minute was banked off his back.”

That goal by Braden Roberts (Andrew Tapsell, Chris McGuffin) came on a power play with 49 seconds left to play. Stratford had taken a 2-0 first-period lead, then sealed it with back-to-back Sean O’Brien goals.

Earlier in the season Tillsonburg defeated Stratford (9-5), Alvinston (15-7) and Elora (7-5). Strathroy is still undefeated at 6-0.

“We have a solid team,” said Holly, expecting the Thunder will be battling for one of the top two places in the WOSHL.

“Our team is still gelling, too. After two years off you can see some guys have a bit of rust, but it’s coming together.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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