The Diefenbaker Thunder, also known as the Western Prairie Thunder, are in their last matchup of the Saskatchewan Female Hockey League season as they battle in the Female Midget A Provincial Finals against the Wood River SWT Ice Cats.
The Thunder, who ended the regular season with a record of 16 wins, 2 ties and 2 losses, are the team from the North side in this year's finals following an intense three-game series versus the East Central Fillies in the previous round. It was already expected that this would be a tight series between the two clubs considering the Fillies finished a point above the Thunder in the North Division.
Even though the locals managed to win Game 1 in overtime 2-1, East Central was able to return the favour with a 2-1 overtime win themselves in Game 2, tying the series up at 1-1. But it was a shutout performance from Diefenbaker's Jayden Lawson that spoiled any chances of the Fillies to win the series, as the Thunder stormed their way to a 2-0 victory in Game 3 to take the North Division banner.
"Our season has been really good this year. They've worked really hard, whether it was practices or games, and they are a good bunch of girls," said head coach Kurt Jones. "We've been trying to build this team for the past five and get to the point that we are now."
The Thunder consist of girls from grades 10 to 12 from different areas in the west central region. Rosetown, Outlook, Dinsmore, Conquest and Beechy are just some of the communities represented on this year's squad if you don't include their affiliate players. This season, the girls have played their home games in Beechy, Conquest, Rosetown and Dinsmore, which is where all their families and friends flock to on game days when they're back on their in the area.
Home ice advantage can be a difference-maker in a tough series, which is why the Thunder will try to take full advantage of it in their current series with the Ice Cats. In Game 1 last night from Lafleche, it was the Ice Cats who were able to get in front in the best-of-3 series with a 2-1 win over the Thunder for a 1-0 lead. The teams will now be in Dinsmore tonight for Game 2 as they'll look to even things up with an Ice Cats roster that has only lost once between the regular season and playoffs.
"It will be exciting and nervous from the players, coaches, and even the parents," explained Jones when discussing what it will be like for the team to play a do-or-die game on their ice. "They've battled through everything this year and I'm sure they'll get mentally prepared to get the win today. They'll certainly give their best effort."
No doubt Game 2 will be an energetic and emotional night for the girls, but the comfort of playing in a familiar environment may help ease their nerves in a must-win situation. Game time between the Diefenbaker Thunder and Wood River SWT Ice Cats is at 7:00 p.m. from the Dinsmore Memorial Arena.
A win tonight for the Thunder will push the series to a third and decisive game to be played on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. in Lafleche.