AUBURN — The Twin City Thunder closed the gap between themselves and the P.A.L. Islanders in the USPHL National Collegiate Development conference standings with a 4-3 win Saturday night at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

The Thunder (20-13-1, 41 points) are now in a tie for fifth with the Northern Cyclones and sit two points behind the Islanders (19-10-5, 43 points), who are in fourth place.

“The teams we are playing are in front of us in the standings, and I think it’s important to get these wins because these are points that are going to continue to add up in this final stretch,” Thunder forward Nick Rashkovsky said. “We want to do whatever it takes, not only to clinch a playoff spot but to get home-ice advantage as well.”

Rashkovsky led the Thunder attack Saturday with two goals.

After an early surge by the Islanders, James “Fisher” Shea broke the scoreless tie and gave the Thunder a 1-0 lead as he picked the top left corner with a wrist shot past Islanders goalie Henry Graham just before the six-minute mark of the first period (23 saves).

“He actually called it today at the house,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said of Shea scoring a goal. “He billets with Levente (Keresztes), and he made the call, he came through.”

Shea and Keresztes billets with Friedman and his family.

The Thunder went to work on the power play when the Islanders’ Devin Moran was called for a five-minute major for contact to the head on Twin City’s Zach Egber. Lukas Skvarek stretched the Thunder’s lead to 2-0 with a goal from the slot during the man advantage.

The wheels came off for the Thunder in the final six minutes of the first period. On a delayed penalty on Thunder’s Nick Latvala for interference, the Islanders’ Aidan Torres point shot found its way past Thunder goalie Jaxon Friedman (36 saves) to get P.AL. on the board.

With Latvala in the box, the Islanders scored on another delayed penalty, this time it was Artem Buzoverya putting the puck in the net, with about four-and-half minutes remaining the first to tie the game at 2-2.

“Kudos to (the Islanders) for executing in those situations,” Doug Friedman said. “It was bad breaks for us, but our guys responded well. Our penalty kill, I thought, was really strong, even though we gave up a power play goal. We did a real good job filling (shooting and passing) lanes and blocking shots. That kept us in the game.”

Islanders were 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Thunder went 1-for-3.

Just before the nine-minute mark of the second period, Rashkovsky jammed home the puck to give the Thunder a 3-2 lead.

“He’s been buzzing all night, he has been skating well and he’s strong on his edges, and he drives wide, he’s tough to stop,” Friedman said.

P.A.L recorded its second power play goal when Ryan Willett found the back of the net with 11 seconds remaining on a Skvarek penalty. The goal came with 4:16 remaining in the middle frame.

The game was tied at 3-3 for only 52 seconds. Rashkovsky skated down the right sideboards, cut to the crease and wrapped the puck around Graham to give the Thunder a 4-3 lead.

Rashkovsky said he saw the move earlier in the game.

“Earlier in the game, I saw one of the Islanders players (Artem Buzoverya) get a similar goal,” Rashkovsky said. “I saw a little space and thought if I could take it wide and drive to the net, I have a good chance of scoring.”

The Thunder will try to sweep the two-game series the Islanders on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Norway Savings Bank Arena.


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