Thunder scrambling to make most of difficult situation

Jacob Hurring (left), of the Dunedin Thunder, is checked by Stephen Mawson, of the Botany Swarm,...
Jacob Hurring (left), of the Dunedin Thunder, is checked by Stephen Mawson, of the Botany Swarm. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
What started out as a season of great hope has now become about rebuilding for the Dunedin Thunder.

Coach Jeff Avery was very optimistic about the campaign early on. But the loss of some key players has forced a reset - a bit like KiwiBuild.

The damaging 7-1 and 4-2 losses to the Botany Swarm last weekend was a reality check for the franchise.

The team returns to Auckland this weekend and will need good results in the back-to-back games against the West Auckland Admirals if it is going to stay in touch with the top three.

It will have to do without star imports Colton McCarthy and Connor McCallum.

"Do you remember when I told you this could be our year? Well, how things change," Avery said.

"We lost our two main guys. They've gone home."

McCarthy was ruled out with a groin injury and returned home to Canada.

Fellow Canadian McCallum, who was suspended for three games for spearing, "packed a sad and just upped and left which was a shame".

"That has just left us scrambling. That has put the pressure on the young guys to step up.

"It has been tough, you know. It went from a year where we could possibly win it to potentially a rebuilding year."

Help is on the way, though. Finn Miska Autio will join the team in Auckland and for the remainder of the season.

The defenceman will bolster the side also missing defenders Max Hurring and Dylan Devlin. They picked up injuries during the weekend and have been ruled out for the season.

Avery has had to rejig his defensive lines and was even contemplating whether some of the assistant coaches were going to have to "suit up".

The gaps at the back will have to be plugged by younger players and they will need to "play above their station".

"If we can win, there can be no mistakes."

The Queenstown-based Stampede has seven wins from eight games and leads the league with 21 points.

The Admirals are in second place with 13 points. The Swarm is tucked in the Admirals' slipstream with 12 points.

The Thunder is in fourth with 10 points and the Canterbury Red Devils are last with four points.

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