The Twin City Thunder opened an important two-game weekend series Saturday against the Connecticut Junior Rangers, who are tied for fourth place in the USPHL NCDC standings.

The Thunder (18-12-1, 37 points) now sit three points behind the Rangers after a 4-3 junior hockey victory at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

“For us, every game is important, with a big cluster of teams in the middle of the pack,” Twin City coach Doug Friedman said. “We are sitting in sixth right now and they are in fourth. I think for the playoffs, and I just think for the confidence in the guys … I think they know how close it is.”

The Thunder started fast. Lewiston native Jeromey Rancourt opened the scoring 17 seconds into the game, and Levente Keresztes scored about two minutes later to give Twin City a quick 2-0 lead.

“It started by a good play by Zach Ebger, who was just back in the lineup after two months off from an ankle injury,” Friedman said of Rancourt’s goal. “He brings a lot of energy, he made great play up to Drew Gardner, who had a real nice shot toward the net that Jeromey had a real nice tip through the goalie’s legs.”

The Thunder lead was extended to 3-0 when Keresztes fed Daniels Murnieks, who fired the puck past Junior Rangers goalie CJ Hapward with just under three minutes left in the first period. With less than a minute remaining in the period, Christian Blomquist jammed home the puck past Hapward for a 4-0 lead.

The scripted was flipped in the second period, as the Rangers (16-8-7, 40 points) unleashed an onslaught of goals in a short time frame.

“At the end of the first period I pretty much, verbatim, told the guys, ‘That was a great first period, we took advantage of their bus legs, probably, and they are only going to get better in the second period,’” Friedman said. “I don’t think the guys believed me too much because (Connecticut) got all three goals on the 4-on-4, which is not ideal for us. We are going to have some video to watch to make sure we learn from some of the mistakes we made.”

Sam Timonen – the son of longtime NHL defenseman Kimmo Timonen – put Connecticut on the board 2:14 into the stanza. The momentum continued 13 seconds later as Jin Lee found the back of the net to cut the deficit to 4-2.

Joseph Mancuso scored his first goal since joining the Junior Rangers (from the Northeast Generals of the NAHL) a little past the five-minute mark of the period.

That was the final goal of the game as the Thunder penalty kill went 7-for-7 on the night, with all the Thunder’s penalties coming in the second and third periods.

Alexander Kozic made 29 saves for the Thunder, while Hapward stopped 34 shots for Connecticut.

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