Thunder ready for playoffs

Tillsonburg Thunder captain Mike Findlay celebrates his goal Saturday night against Elora. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

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The playoff picture came into focus for the Tillsonburg Thunder on the weekend after a 9-5 win over Elora Rocks, sealing sixth place in the WOAAA Senior Hockey League and a first-round AA playoff series against third-place Saugeen Shores.

“Going into tonight (Saturday), there were three teams we could have played (in the first round),” said Thunder president Mike Holly.

“There was only five points between second place and seventh,” said Thunder GM Bill Ryan, noting Saugeen Shores, Clinton and Seaforth each finished with 32 points.

The first three games of the series have been scheduled (at press time). The best-of-seven series opens in Port Elgin on Feb. 7 (8:30 p.m.) and continues back in Tillsonburg on Saturday, Feb. 8 (7:30 p.m.).

Game 3 is Friday, Feb. 14 in Port Elgin at 8:30 p.m. Games 4-7 are TBD.


Tillsonburg Thunder player-coach Scott Stafford fires a shot during Saturday’s WOAA game against Elora Rocks. Stafford had two goals and an assist in Tillsonburg’s 9-5 WOAA win. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN


Saturday at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, Chris McGuffin scored a hat trick and Scott Stafford added a pair as the Thunder led 3-1 after one period and 7-3 after two. Thunder goalie Tommy Lee made 30 saves for the win.

“Just about everybody’s back healthy now, we had a bunch of injuries throughout the season, on and off,” said Thunder coach Rob Hutchison. “As long as we get on a good roll…”

The Thunder have played some of their best games of the season against tougher teams this year, he said.

“Against the tougher teams, it seems like everybody’s ready to go,” said Hutchison. “As long as we keep that mindset that it’s 110% all the way. Everybody being on the same page and moving forward now.

“When we played Clinton, Tommy stood on his head. There was a couple games he kept us in, and you always say that’s the biggest thing, your goaltending. Tommy, there was three or four games, maybe more, when he stood on his head for us, kept us in and we got to battle back.”

Front-runners in the WOAA are Ripley (19-3), Shelburne (17-5), Saugeen Shores (16-6), Clinton (16-6), and Seaforth (15-5-1). Tillsonburg finished the regular season with a 13-7-2 record.

“We’ve got 25 guys, 18 guys play,” said Hutchison. “We should have a solid lineup every time we go. We should be able to go for a good run really.”

“The players are there, the talent is there, now we just got to do it,” said Ryan.


Langton minor hockey grad Zach VanLouwe plays the puck behind the Elora net Saturday night during Tillsonburg Thunder’s 9-5 WOAA victory. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN


Tillsonburg (13-7-2), which missed the AA playoffs by one point last year, finished ahead of AA teams Minto (13-8-1) and Durham (12-9-1).

“Two weeks ago we had a shot at third place,” said Ryan.

“We let games slide from us this year that we shouldn’t have,” Hutchison admitted. “We had games that we would have loved to have the two points – short-staffed, work – and those couple of games we let get by us would have boosted us up – third maybe, or even making a run for the top. But it is what it is, at the end of the day we finished sixth – and in the AA playoffs – and we go from there.”

Tillsonburg Thunder 9,

Elora 5

Thunder scoring

1. Jeff Leaist (Scott Stafford, Ryan Stephenson)

2. Chris McGuffin (Brett Parsons, Mike Findlay)

3. Scott Stafford (Ryan Stephenson, Jason Skinner)

4. Scott Stafford (Ryan Stephenson)

5. Chris McGuffin (Brett Parsons, Travis Lisabeth)

6. Chris McGuffin (Travis Lisabeth, Brett Parsons)

7. Justin Lightfoot (Kaine Geldart, Andrew Tapsell)

8. Mike Findlay (Brett Parsons, Travis Lisabeth)

9. Kaine Geldart (Andrew Tapsell, Jeff Leaist)