Sound of Thunder

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

LLOYDMINSTER -- The Horse Lake Thunder was billed as the best senior hockey team money can buy. Last night they also looked like the dumbest.

One game away from a berth in the Allan Cup final, the heavily favoured Thunder threw it all away with a series of meathead penalties in the first period, spotting the Thunder Bay Bombers three quick power-play goals in a stunning 7-5 loss.

They were so hopelessly outwitted it was painful to watch - although the sold-out Lloydminster Civic Centre delighted in watching Theo Fleury and company come so terribly unglued.

"Remember 1980, the Miracle on Ice?'' said Fleury, who teamed up with Sasha Lakovic to vent their spleens in a nine-minute, post-game rant. "(Stuff) happens. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. You have to give the other team credit.''

That was about as gracious in defeat as they'd get. Alternating between playing the victim card and ripping every other team in the tournament, they went down swinging.

"Every single ticket for this event was sold out. Why? Because of the Horse Lake Thunder,'' said Fleury.

NOT BECAUSE OF THE BOMBERS

"Not because of the Thunder Bay Bombers or the Lloydminster whatever they call themselves. It was because Horse Lake was here.''

Actually, the thing was sold-out before Horse Lake qualified, but you never stop a guy when he's rolling.

"The only reason this tournament sold out was because of yours truly right here,'' continued Fleury.

"We all know it and I'm going to say it: Once again Theo Fleury puts hockey on the map when it needs it the most.''

They definitely made it exciting, and the event isn't nearly as compelling without them. But when Thunder Bay's Barry McKinley put it away with a 200-foot empty netter, the place actually rose for a standing ovation.

That fans in Lloydminster cheered for an Ontario team to beat Alberta tells you all you need to know about how the Thunder were received here.

"We went through it all year,'' said Lakovic, who said the bad vibrations contributed to the early penalty parade.

"We knew it was going to happen. When you have that much bad energy going against you, it's going to happen.

''Who knows why that is. It could be racial, it could not be. It could be that they're just against us. We hear it all the time.''

Fleury chalks it up to working man's jealousy.

"Look at the source. A guy that carries a lunch pail to work every day, a frustrated human being. He doesn't want to face his problems head to head, so who's the perfect target? Theo Fleury. He's had success, he's had fame, he's had fortune. Those people have to yell at me to make themselves feel better about themselves. You know what? I'll take the high road.''

Not that high. He did scream at post-game photographers, "You take another (bleeping) picture and I'll kill you.'' But we digress - as, apparently, we've done before.

"You (media) tried to chop us down every chance you could possibly get,'' said Fleury.

"And now you got your story, and it's a hell of a story.''

It is when a heavily stacked team with money to burn, which won it's first two games 9-2 and 7-2, gets beat by a team that bused 24 hours to get here. For the record, the Thunder are refusing to admit defeat, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

"You think those two teams that are playing in the final are better than the Thunder?'' said Lakovic.

A CASE OF BAD KARMA

"You think they're a better team, with the calls that were made in the first period. Are you kidding? Yeah, they won. Good for them. Bad karma. It happens.''

Bad discipline is more like it.

Horse Lake tried the intimidation tactics and found themselves down 3-0 on three power-play goals before the game was 12 minutes old.

They'd fight back in the second period to make it 5-5 after 40 minutes, but were clearly drained. Locals says they've never heard their barn louder than when Horse Lake was going down in flames.

"Everybody likes to see winners go down,'' said Fleury.

"I've been a part of it, Olympics in '98, World Cup in '96, it's called life. You can make up all the excuses you want to make up, but the bottom line is we lost the game.

''It just wasn't in the cards. We dug ourselves a huge hole.

''We climbed back, but if you let teams like that stay around, it ends up biting you in the butt every time.''


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