Lucas Nagel sets up on the penalty kill during the Cowichan Valley Thunder’s 2018 home opener at Kerry Park Arena last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Lucas Nagel sets up on the penalty kill during the Cowichan Valley Thunder’s 2018 home opener at Kerry Park Arena last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Victorious home opener highlights busy stretch for junior B Thunder

Cowichan remains unbeated despite penalty woes

The junior B Cowichan Valley Thunder finally played their first home game of the 2018 box lacrosse season, but not without a hitch.

The head referee allocator for the league had neglected to assign officials for Cowichan’s game against the Campbell River Ravens at Kerry Park Arena last Saturday afternoon. Instead of sending the Ravens home and wasting a $1,200 bus ride, the Thunder scrambled to find refs. As a qualified referee, Cowichan head coach Lorne Winship had to break out his whistle and officiate, leaving bench duties in the hands of his assistants.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” Winship said. “That’s not a position I wanted to be put in.”

It all worked out for the best, though, as the Thunder beat the Ravens 11-5, and the Campbell River coaches told Winship it was the best reffing they had seen in the last year and a half. The Cowichan players may not have felt the same way.

“We got more penalties than Campbell River did, which was a given,” Winship laughed. “I told my players before the game that any 50/50 call was going against them.”

In the win, the Thunder got three goals and one assist from Taylor Martin, while Mat Jung had two goals and four assists, and Brayden Zunti scored two goals and set up two more. Kyle Page also scored twice and added an assist, Tyson Black had a goal and four helpers, and Brandon Corby had one goal. Jacob Taylor, Olin Webb and goalie Pollo Claxton each registered one assist.

Winship isn’t the only ref this year that has handed out more penalties to Cowichan than to their opposition, something the coaches have tried to address with the more penalty-prone players.

“We’re a big-looking team,” Winship acknowledged. “And often teams that look like that get more penalties”

Three days prior to their home opener, the Thunder collected their most lopsided win of the season to date, beating the Nanaimo Timbermen 16-3 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

“We just completely dominated them,” Winship said. “They were short on players, and we finally got our game stepped up.”

The Thunder were credited with 79 shots overall, including 36 in the second period.

Black and Zunti each scored four goals against Nanaimo, Black adding two assists and Zunti one. Jung had two goals and three assists, Taylor Martin had a goal and three helpers, and Taylor, Brady Williams, Colin Winship, Scott McCaffery and Lucas Nagel also scored.

Winship doesn’t expect every game against Nanaimo to be as one-sided.

“They’ll be able to give us a better game next time,” he said.

Last Sunday, playing their second game in two days, and with a slightly smaller bench, the Thunder managed to hold off the Saanich Express for a 12-9 win at Archie Browning Arena.

Penalties were a little lopsided and Saanich scored a big chunk of their goals on the powerplay. The teams were within a goal of each other most of the game, and Saanich even held an 8-7 lead with seven minutes left. The match was beneficial for both teams, Winship suggested.

“It feels good to win a battle and come up on top,” he said. “It’s one of those games that bring everyone together. Obviously, Saanich was excited they played us close, and they can build off that.”

Jung led the attack with three goals and six assists and Corby also recorded a hat trick and added one helper. Zunti had two goals and four assists, Martin had a goal and three helpers, Taylor had a goal and one assist, and Colin Winship and Hunter Hieta also scored singles. Webb finished with three assists and Black had one.

At home against the Westshore Bears on Wednesday evening, the Thunder eked out a 12-10 victory in a penalty-filled battle.

“We played over half the game shorthanded,” Winship noted. “We need to continue to work on discipline.”

Jung scored four goals and set up two others, Black and Colin Winship each had two goals and two assists, Taylor had two goals, Martin scored one and added three assists, Corby had a goal and an assist, Zunti recorded two helpers, and Claxton made 32 saves.

The Thunder will be back at Kerry Park Arena this Saturday, hosting Campbell River at 6 p.m., followed by another home date against Nanaimo on Monday at 8 p.m.