The Halifax Thunderbirds keep finding new ways to win games after defeating the red-hot Colorado Mammoth tonight 12–9.
In every game so far, the Thunderbirds have started fast and taken early leads. This was not the case tonight, however, going down by 4 early in the first quarter. The usually solid defense and goaltender of the Thunderbirds just could not get going to start the game.
The Mammoth offense came to play early, different than their usual style. Traditionally, the Mammoth have started slow and had very strong second halves, but tonight they came out firing. Joey Cupido opened the scoring just 14 seconds in, giving the Mammoth an early lead and all the momentum right out of the gate. Chris Wardle netted two goals back to back for Colorado, and notched an assist to Kyle Killen to give the Mammoth the early 4 goal lead in the first quarter.
Then Graeme Hossack did what Graeme Hossack does, picking off a pass and running the floor for a fast-break goal to put the Thunderbirds on the board. A crafty behind-the-back pass to Ryan Lee for the goal brought the Mammoth back up by 4, but a quick Power Play goal by Cody Jamieson followed by some great ball movement to Stephen Keogh brought the Thunderbirds within two, trailing 5–3 at the end of the first quarter.
Coach Mike Accursi said that the keys to getting back in the game for the Thunderbirds are to just settle down, not to try and do too much on offense, and to stay controlled. In the second quarter, the Thunderbirds started to get into their rhythm by playing stronger defense and moving the ball better on offense. Warren Hill stepped it up, too. After letting 5 goals past him in the first, he only allowed 2 in during the second quarter.
The offense started to click toward the end of the second quarter, with Brad Gillies sneaking a shot past Dillon Ward, followed by a backdoor feed to Clarke Petterson, and then Eric Fannell scored his second goal of the game to end the first half on a 3 goal run, trailing only by one going into the second half.
“We just have to keep working hard and limit our mistakes,” said Graeme Hossack at the half. “They’re capitalizing on every mistake we are making, so we have to play cleaner.”
In the third quarter, the defense for the Thunderbirds stepped up and the offense looked sharp. A strong defensive play opened up the quarter and then Eric Fannell, tying the game at 7 just 49 seconds into the half.
Colorado was not going to give up the lead without a fight though, and after a penalty, Jeff Wittig scored to regain the lead, 8–7.
Then came the always reliable Cody Jamieson on a delayed penalty with an extra man on, tying the game back up at 8. Excellent ball movement led to a record setting goal by Ryan Benesch, moving to 9th All-Time in goals.
On the other end of the field, Warren Hill and Graeme Hossack locked it down, holding a 9–8 lead going into the final quarter of play. The Thunderbirds switched the pace and scored 6 of the last 7 goals.
Both goalies played excellent games, with Dillon Ward for the Mammoth making incredible saves to try and keep his team in the game. Warren Hill on the other side of the field, however, wouldn’t budge, and after having a weak opening quarter, played stellar the rest of the game.
In the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds kept the tempo and locked down the Mammoth. Benesch ripped a rocket past Ward to extend to a 2-goal lead, then Chris Boushy was welcomed back to the lineup by scoring after an incredible effort to snag a loose ball and a great finish in front of the crease.
Jeff Wittig was still fighting hard for the Mammoth, scoring with 38 seconds left to bring the score to 11–9, but an empty net goal by Graeme Hossack iced it for the Thunderbirds, sealing the win 12–9.
“I think it was just our effort. We were playing smarter, we were able to come together, we were getting back to our systems,” said Hossack post-game. “As soon as we started to come together the game started to go our way. As long as we stay working together and working for each other, it’s going to go well for us.”
The Thunderbirds improve to a perfect 4–0 on the season and sit atop the North division while the Mammoth fall to 3–2. The Thunderbirds will now look to prepare for next week’s game against another Western Conference opponent when the San Diego Seals travel to Halifax. That game takes place on Saturday, January 18th at 7:00pm local time for First Nations Night.