Thunder take 2-0 series lead

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Tillsonburg Thunder scored three unanswered third-period goals to defeat Saugeen Shores Winterhawks 6-2 Saturday night at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, taking a 2-0 lead in the WOAA first-round best-of-seven playoff series.

“A great effort from the boys, right from Tommy (Lee) in net to our defence to our forwards,” said Tillsonburg Thunder player-coach Scott Stafford. “We’ve got 25 guys and we’re going to need all 25 to have a good run this year. If think if we’re going to have success this year we kind of have to do it by committee.”

Thunder’s Mike Rebry had the lone first period goal, assisted by Zach VanLouwe and Jeff Leaist. Goals by Brendan Barletta and Chris McGuffin gave Tillsonburg a 3-1 lead in the second, but Saugeen Shores got one back on a late power play.

“The fourth goal (Braden Roberts) was big, but the fifth goal on the penalty kill, when Reb stole the puck and went down and scored on the breakaway – we were up three goals with about 10 minutes left in the third. They (Saugeen Shores) had already scored two power play goals tonight, so for us to not only stop them on the power play, but to add another marker, and for Rebs to put a stamp on that game, was huge for us.”

Rebry’s top-shelf breakaway goal with 9:53 left to play gave Tillsonburg a 5-2 lead. Kaine Geldart sealed it with an empty net goal from centre ice at 1:09.

Saugeen Shores outshot Tillsonburg 42-36.

The Thunder had opened the series in Port Elgin Friday night with a 5-4 overtime win.

“It was kind of a feeling out process in Game 1,” said Stafford, noting it was the first time in the team’s 12-year history the Thunder have played the Winterhawks in the post-season.

“Tommy played great between the pipes and Mike Rebry – as he did again tonight (two goals, one assist on Saturday) – kind of took over and used his speed and his creativity and power, and put it away late in the first overtime. Him, Zach VanLouwe and Corbin Bean, they’re our gunners up front. They’ve definitely been our top line the first two games of the playoffs.

“Definitely good to get the win going up there at 8:30 on a Friday night, and coming home late.

“They (Saugeen Shores) were missing a couple guys tonight, especially on the back end – No. 7 (Greg Thede) and Theo Peckham (No. 42), who played in the NHL, lots of experience. He (Peckham) was really poised with the puck at the back end. So they missed a few of their guys but good for us, we capitalized and came up with Game 2.”


Tillsonburg Thunder’s Jason Skinner (left) battles for a loose puck in front o fthe Saugeen Shores net Saturday night. The best-of-seven WOAA playoff series continues Friday in Port Elgin and Sunday, Feb. 17 in Tillsonburg (7 p.m.). (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN


Trailing the series 2-0, the Winterhawks are nearing must-win.

“Being down 2-0 and back at their home rink for Game 3, they’re going to play with a lot of urgency and I expect, especially the first 10-15 minutes, they’re going to come out and really try to set the tempo of the game,” said Stafford.

Tillsonburg’s game plan won’t change going into Game 3 and then Game 4 back at home Sunday night at 7 p.m.

“In this league, from No. 1 to No. 8 there’s not a ton of difference. There’s a lot of parity in the league. Anyone can beat anybody on any given night, so for us we know if we play our game… we like our chances most nights when we hit the ice.

“One hundred per cent don’t change a thing, try to take care of our bodies this week, and keep our guys healthy,” said Stafford. “We’re going to have a good practice here Tuesday and make sure we’re all on the same page going up there Friday night. And just play the game the way we’ve been playing the first two games – try to control the puck when we have it and some of our more offensive players try to dictate the tempo of the game with their speed and creativity and skill.

“The day off Saturday is going to be great for everybody coming back here for Game 4 on Sunday. Them included, they’re having to battle the travel, but getting home – back to the car pool – at 2-3 a.m. and then in bed late, it’s not a lot of sleep. You make do with what you have.”

The Thunder gave up their regular Saturday night time slot this weekend (Feb. 15) to the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni hockey game – a fundraiser for the F.A.R.E. program in Tillsonburg, which pays for recreational experiences for youth and adults in need.

Stafford, who wore the C Saturday night in place of Mike Findlay, is in his third season with the Thunder. Last year the team was relegated to A playoffs. Two years ago, Tillsonburg ran into red hot Clinton in the AA playoffs.

“We ended up losing to Clinton in six games,” said Stafford. “I think we were the only team to beat them – I think they went like 32-2-0. We were up 2-1 on them and unfortunately – good team – they came back and took it to us by the end of that series. We ran into a couple injuries and depth kind of got the better of us.”