Thunder Finish the Season on High Note

The Dunedin Thunder capped off their season with a 7-1 win over the Canterbury Red Devils, Sunday afternoon at the Dunedin Ice Stadium.

Looking to close out what can only be described as successful bounce-back season, the Dunedin Thunder battled the Canterbury Red Devils at the Dunedin Ice Stadium, following a penalty-filled, 15-2 blow out over their Cantabrian rivals from the previous night.

Getting their regular season Thunder debuts were Sam Audas and Padraig MacKenzie. Paris Heyd, looking to build on his six goal performance from the previous night would be trying to move farther up the NZIHL points leaders board. Jon Barakauskas got the start between the pipes for the Thunder, while Steven Coull, looking to bounce back from last night’s performance got the start in goal for the Red Devils.

The game got off to a slow start, with neither side imposing themselves on the game.

Kevin Jagau got the Thunder on the board at 10:10 with a beautiful short-handed effort. He split the defense and beat Coull top shelf to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead. Matas Barakauskas had been penalised for Boarding, giving the Red Devils the man-advantage, but they could not take advantage.

The period ended with the Thunder holding 1-0 advantage. Shots for the period were 8-7 for the Thunder, although the period’s best chances belonged to Dunedin.

The second period began with the Red Devils on a power-play advantage, following a Boarding penalty to Dylan Devlin, late in the first period.

However, the visitors could not caplitalise and shortly after returning to even strength, Easton Oliver pinched in to beat Coull and double the home side’s lead to 2-0.

And shortly after, on a nifty piece of skill by Greg Wilson, he found himself alone in front of Coull and ripped rope with a beautiful shot, just under the cross bar to stretch the Thunder’s lead to 3-0 at 2:09. It was another in a series of highlight reel goals for the Canadian import, who certainly brought his skill bucket with him to Dunedin.

Back-to-back penalties to the Thunder gave the Red Devils a 5-on-3 advantage, but they could not take advantage and did not seriously threaten the Dunedin net-minder.

While the teams were well-behaved to that point, there was a spirited tilt between George Hopkins and Alex Damm, with Hopkins getting the better of the exchange, further enhancing his ‘tough-guy’ reputation around the league.

Shortly after this the Thunder added to their lead on a beautiful give-and-go between Joe Orr and Felipe Aguirre-Landeshoeft. Orr fed Aguirre-Landeshoeft who returned the pass and Orr was able to slot behind Coull.

The physicality increased after that, with the Thunder picking up two penalties in succession, and the Red Devils finally got on the board on a bouncing shot from Luke Hill at 11:27.

Discipline was becoming an issue for the Thunder as Matas Barakauskas picked up a penalty for interference at 12:31, but again the Red Devils did not threaten the Dunedin goal.

Joe Orr scored his second of the game on a dandy feed from Greg Wilson, restoring the four goal advantage. Wilson picked out Orr from behind the net and Orr was able to bend the twine at 15:24.

The period ended with the Thunder holding a comfortable four goal advantage, with shots in the period, 15 for the Thunder and 10 for the Red Devils.

In the third period, the Thunder stretched their lead to 6-1 on bar-down shot from Paris Heyd, with the Thunder holding the man advantage at 9:20.

The lead was extended to 7-1 as Kevin Jagau picked up his second of the game on a nice pass from Easton Oliver at 15:27.

Shots for the game were 36-27 for the Thunder.

The Thunder’s 9-7, third place season was highlighted with three overtime wins, a nice home win over the Sky City Stampede and two away wins against finalists Auckland Admirals. They played a thoroughly entertaining brand of hockey, with the imports bringing a combination of skill, savvy and hard-nosed play that complemented a young and talented domestic core for the Thunder. The future looks bright in for hockey in Dunedin.

Game report by Richard Audas