Panthers Adam Laite really get some flex into this shot on this rush into the Thunder end in the second period on Wednesday. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Panthers surprise Thunder, Lacombe earns bye to semi

Late empty net goal sinks Manitoba club to third place after 4-1 loss

A quick start went downhill for Manitoba and will mean a huge uphill climb to grab the title.

The South East Prairie Thunder were rocked Wednesday night by the heart and desire of the Haut-Madawaska Panthers from New Brunswick 4-1.

The loss meant all three teams in the pool, which included Lacombe, were tied with records of a win and a loss.

Though, due to the goals-for and against formula, it left the Thunder in third place in the pool following the round robin despite a 4-2 opening day win over the Lacombe Generals.

Meanwhile for the Panthers, the victory comes as tremendous confidence boost for a team that admittedly isn’t considered a contender here following a big test and big loss yesterday against Lacombe.

“It was really important for us to come out and play well for 60 minutes. This win just helps our confidence,” said Panthers captain Dean Ouellet, who had one assist.

“We believe in ourselves and in each other, knowing if we play hard we will do well.”

Four in a row

The first period saw the Thunder get out of the gate quick, as Brock Nixon scored just a minute and seven seconds into the contest.

That pressure continued for the rest of the opening period, though in spite of out shooting the Panthers 16-7, the Thunder weren’t able to push the puck into the net again.

For the next 40 minutes, it was all Panthers. Keith Sexton got an unassisted marker with just less than eight minutes gone in the second, which was followed with less than five minutes to go by another powerplay goal from Andrew Randazzo.

Both goals came courtesy excellent screens in front of the Thunders’ goaltender Steve Christie, who didn’t even move on either shot and only faced 26 shots in the game.

Gabriel Levasseur scored on a great move in close on Christie near the 14 minute mark of the third, but the nail in the coffin came when South East pulled the goalie and allowed Peter Trainor an empty netter.

“We had no complaints in the first and could have had more goals if not for a few unlucky bounces,” said Thunder coach Blake Forsyth.

“They stepped up their game and we just didn’t respond how we should have. I still believe we can win out. We just have to be more consistent and we’ll be fine.

Need to win now

That means the quarter finals are set for Thursday, with Rosetown to play the Prairie Thunder at 4 p.m. at the Gary Moe Sportsplex followed at 8 p.m. with Innisfail taking on Haut-Madawaska.

For the two Generals at this tournament — Lacombe and Stoney Creek — that means a day of rest as their respective first place finishes in the round robin give them a bye into the semi-finals on Friday. Regardless of who wins in the quarter finals, Lacombe will play at 8 p.m. Friday.

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Panthers Gabriel Levasseur celebrates the 3-1 goal late in the third period as dejected Thunder players stare at the puck in the net. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Josh MacKinnon of the Panthers nails the Thunders’ Devon LeBlanc on the half wall, removing him from the puck as he attempted to enter the Panther zone in the second period. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

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