Thunderbirds hockey teams battle in playoffs

Minor midgets playing for league title, major midgets open playoffs in Abbotsford

The Fraser Valley Thunderbirds major and minor midget hockey clubs enter the playoffs this weekend, with championship dreams in their heads.

The major midget team is coming off an excellent regular season that saw the club finish first overall and compile a record of 29-9-1-1.

The club outscored its opposition 180-100 in those 40 games, and edged out the second-place Cariboo Cougars by one point after wrapping up the season on Sunday with a 5-3 win over the North Island Silvertips.

The Thunderbirds were led by Zackary Funk, who collected 58 points in 38 games and finished fourth overall in league scoring. Jacob Wright and Dawson Good were also top contributors, with 52 and 51 points respectively – sixth and seventh overall in league scoring.

Goalie Dawson Pelletier had an excellent season between the pipes, posting a record of 16-5-1-0 and a sparkling goals-against average of 2.29. His goaltending partner Kevin Craig also had a strong season, going 13-4-0-1 and finishing with a GAA of 2.73.

The Thunderbirds take on the eighth-ranked Valley West Giants in a best-of-three quarterfinal series to open the playoffs, with game one set for Friday at 7:35 p.m.

Game two is scheduled for Saturday at 8:30 p.m., and game three, if necessary, will be Sunday at 2 p.m. All games occur at Abbotsford’s MSA Arena.

Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds minor midget league team heads to Kelowna to take on the Okanagan Rockets for the league championship this weekend.

The team won the right to make the trip by beating the Cariboo Cougars in a hard-fought series over the weekend that saw the second-seeded Thunderbirds prevail over the third-seeded Cougars, with two of the games decided in overtime.

Head coach Travis Oddy anticipated a hard fight based on the two previous encounters with the Cariboo team this season, and the rival players did not disappoint.

Game one on Friday (March 8) went to the Cougars, but they had to work for it, claiming a 5-4 victory in overtime.

Game two went into double overtime before the Thunderbirds took their 3-2 win.

“Literally, one goal can end our season [in that situation],” Oddy said. “Luckily, we were the ones to score that goal.”

By game three, Thunderbird players could sense victory was near, the coach said.

“There was a different energy in the room,” Oddy said. “Our guys felt like they were in control.”

They won that game 4-1 to clinch the series win.

Oddy believes the series against number- one-seeded Okanagan Rockets is going to be a close one, but the Kelowna players can be beaten.

Thunderbirds have already proven it this season, he said.

“We’ve met them (Kelowna) once before in a three-game series and we took the series. Both games that we won were one-goal games.

“Basically, what we’re expecting is a tight series and games. It could be a goal either way [that make a difference].”

All the championship games will be played in Kelowna, the top seed in the league.

On Saturday (March 16), game one goes at the Rutland East arena at 1 p.m. Game two is Sunday (March 17) at Rutland, 3:15 p.m. and, if needed, game three will be Monday (March 18) at the Capital News Centre at 1:15 p.m.

– With files from Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times

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