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Thunder tackle tough Bears squad as they prepare for Finals

Photo courtesy Perth Thunder

The Perth Thunder have closed out their home season in front of a near sold out crowd at Perth ice Arena with a six point weekend, topped by a stellar performance in the Crease from Thomas Heemskerk who conceded only one goal over the two game period.

For the Thunder an important six points from the weekend cemented there place within this years playoffs. The weekend’s games saw goals few and far between, with only five goals being scored across both games. The low scoring affair was a result of the strong goaltending from the Bears’ Anthony Kimlin who recorded 80 saves from 84 shots (0.952%) on top of another consistent effort from Thunder’s Heemskerk who went 42 saves from 43 shots over the weekend (0.976%).

After a 2-0 shutout victory over the Bears during Saturday’s matchup, the Thunder was looking for a final sweep at home to finish off the season in front of the Perth fans.

Both Ben Breault and Rob Haselhurst found the back of the net to seal Saturday’s victory, while Sunday’s game saw goals come from Swedish defenseman Per Daniel Goransson, as well as Michael Dorr who crept closer to 20 Goals on the season.

Thunder head coach Dave Kenway was happy with the way his team supported their goaltender and were willing to take a bit of the workload off the shoulders of the man who has been such a core part of this Thunder team’s success all year.

"It makes (Heemskerk) feel a lot better that the team is working hard in front of him," Kenway told AIHL reporters after Saturday’s victory. "The defence stepped up and the forwards were coming back hard on the backcheck, so it was a big team effort," he said.

He was also pleased with the team’s willingness to battle hard in order to close out the game in the final minutes of both the weekends’ contests coming into this time of the year.

"This game was a real test," Kenway said. "We needed to close out a game, win it in regulation, work hard in the third period and not let silly errors take over, and I think all the boys stepped up and played their roles really well."

The Thunder coach had alot to smile about once the weekend had concluded, and although they have a tough week ahead of them against the league’s top side in Melbourne, it was clear the coach was pleased with the weekends efforts, adding that these wins help build momentum as his team prepares to head to into the Finals in two weeks time.

"We have to keep doing the same as what we did tonight, and we need to win," the Thunder coach continued.

"The boys have a lot to work for and they have to keep going, keep that momentum up and go in to the finals on a winning roll. No team turns up and wants to lose, so you want to go out there and play your game every night. Tonight we wanted to get a lot of the local guys out there and we changed up a few systems to make sure they’ve got it all in their heads for the next couple of weeks in Melbourne."

The head coach seemed confident in the guys that have come together this year, and as they look ahead to two weekend’s straight in Melbourne, the task of seeking their first ever semi-final victory looms nervously close for the young team.

"We’ve just got to train hard, and be ready to go," he concluded following Sundays game. "The boys love Melbourne and being a western team, we’re pretty used to the travel so I’m sure they’ll be ready to fly and ready to go."

With the finals now within reach of all teams left standing in contention for the Goodall Cup, the Thunder will have to finish the season with a stellar weekend, staring down a double header at home against the Melbourne Ice.

The Brave will close out their season against the Sydney Ice dogs on the road, and the Newcastle Northstars will face off against the Adrenaline on Saturday, before finishing their season at home against the Mustangs in a close weekend that will decide who the Thunder will face off against in the first round of the 2016 AIHL Finals.