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But most important is Cooper Hatfield reliability in the Thistles net to earn Ws for his team, stopping 45 pucks sent his way by the Brandon AAA Wheat Kings, co leaders in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, and helping his team earn a 4 1 win and two valuable points as they try to claw their way into the playoffs.
In 40 games this season, Hatfield has posted a 12 9 0 2 record while facing 823 shots on goal, saving 721 of them and has and impressive 0.925 save percentage with a pair of shutouts.
Hatfield was just under 12 minutes away from earning another shutout in his second season with the Thistles when the Wheat Kings Dylan Halliday, a 2016 draft pick (12th round, 263 overall) of his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League, managed to slip the puck past him to get the visitors to the Kenora Recreation Centre on Saturday, Feb. 3 onto the scoreboard. Mason Kasprick and Carter Sawchuk picked up the assists on the goal that made it 3 1.
The 16 year old goalie used his pent up aggression at losing the shutout by starting the play that led to the Thistles final goal by Ben Hackl with 75 seconds to play. Hatfield got the puck to Dylan Winsor who passed it to Hackl who beat the Wheat Kings affiliate goalie Dawson Green.
The Wheat Kings came to Kenora with several affiliate players in the lineup due to injuries and having several players on call ups to the WHL, but the Thistles still had to play a solid game in order to come away with the victory.
Hatfield’s third contribution to the win came late in the first period with the Thistles leading 1 0 off a power play goal from Winsor, assisted by Sean Gula and Jared Neniska, when things became chippy in his crease and everybody on the ice paired up behind the net as tempers flared. Hatfield ended up taking a four minute penalty for spearing, while the Wheat Kings Drayson Collyer took a five minute cross checking penalty and a game misconduct.
Winsor finished the game with two goals and an assist, while Jacob Frankcom had the other Thistles goal, assisted by Jacob Clendenning and Jayme Caron.
The win moved the Thistles a point ahead of the Parkland Rangers in the race for a playoff spot. The top eight teams make the playoffs and the Thistles (14 23 0 0 4) and 11 points behinds the Southwest Cougars who hold down the final playoff spot. In between the Cougars and Thistles though is the Central Plains Capitals (16 17 0 2 4) who are six points ahead of the Kenora team.
In Sunday’s rematch with the Wheat Kings, Hatfield had the night off as Matthew Booth received the call to man the Thistles net and things didn’t go as smoothly for the Thistles in a 5 1 loss. Frankcom had the Thistles lone goal while Nolan Richie notched a natural hat trick for Brandon.