Tillsonburg Thunder defeated the Stratford Fighting Irish 7-1 Sunday night winning their first-ever home game in the new Western Ontario Super Hockey League.
Tillsonburg (5-2-0) continues to nip at the heels of league-leading Strathroy Jets (6-0-1) and Elora Rocks (6-1-0).
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The Fighting Irish had nearly shut out the Thunder in Stratford on Oct. 30, winning 4-1 with Tillsonburg’s only goal coming in the final minute.
“We learned something from last week,” said Thunder president/owner Mike Holly.
The plan was to get bodies in front of the net and try ‘back door’ plays.
“Really, he (Nathan Torchia) he didn’t have a lot of chances on any of the goals,” said Holly.
“Our guys were pretty ramped up for the home opener. It was a good game, the guys played hard. That was pretty much our top lineup right there.”
Mitchell Fitzmorris redirected a two-on-one pass from Scott Morris tight to the net to give Tillsonburg a 1-0 less than five minutes in. Matthew Weston’s wrist shot from the high slot beat a screened Torchia later in the period.
Chris McGuffin’s goal 37 seconds into the second was a highlight reel effort, said Holly.
“He (McGuffin) just let a rocket fly, glove side. Their goalie (Torchia) had no chance that – it was ‘bar down.’”
Holly also praised Thunder goalie Andre Roy.
“Some of the saves he made were just outstanding. The goaltending has been fantastic.”
The Thunder opened their season with six road games, but they will make it up with a higher concentration of home games going forward.
“We have a massive weekend coming up,” said Holly. “We go to Elora (Nov. 12) and we have Strathroy coming in (Saturday, Nov. 13) for Student Night.
Holly planned to distribute tickets to local students Monday.
Sunday’s game kicked off with a pre-game red carpet ceremony with the Tillsonburg Legion Branch 153 colour party (and bagpiper) marching to centre ice and O Canada by Sidney Barnabi.
In addition to honouring the Legion and veterans, it was Frontline Worker and First Responder Night with invitations (and free tickets) going to local hospital staff, EMS, firefighters and OPP.
“It was an excellent night,” said Holly. “Every year we’ve honoured the Legion – I think it’s important.”
The Nov. 20 home game against Elora (7:30) will follow the town’s Hometown Hockey 7 p.m. fireworks in Memorial Park next to the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
Also coming up is Hockey Fights Cancer night on the 27 th , the annual Teddy Bear Toss Night on Dec. 11 and Minor Hockey Night on Dec. 18.
If Tillsonburg wins both games this coming weekend they will overtake Elora and Strathroy.
“It’s very tight. The hockey in this league has been excellent. Everybody’s fast, nobody seems to take a night off, they’re all working hard. I’ve been really happy with the hockey so far this year.”