The Nicola Valley Thunder novice lacrosse team may not have won a game yet this season, but make no mistake, the stoic young group of 8-9 year olds is made up of winners one and all.

Under the guidance of head coach Pat McKinney, the ragtag group of ‘Mighty Ducks’ has forged itself into a cohesive unit of hard-working, never-quit players who compete from the opening whistle until the final buzzer each and every outing.

The Thunder novices’ perseverance was never more evident than on the weekend in their own seven-team Thunderball tournament at the Nicola Valley Arena. After getting thumped 13-6 by the Kelowna Kodiaks in their opening game on Friday, the local side put in a trio of stellar performances in their remaining three round-robin contests. They lost 11-9 to the Coquitlam Adanacs, 9-6 to Penticton’s #1 team, before finishing up on the wrong end of a heartbreaking 7-6 score to the North Okanagan Legends.

The Thunder led for 49 minutes of their hour-long game against the Legends before surrendering two late goals to their Okanagan opponents. The winning goal for the Legends came with just 43 seconds remaining in the third period and Nicola Valley playing shorthanded.

Despite the quartet of weekend losses, McKinney was thrilled by the play of his team which began its season in April with losses like 16-3, 17-4 and 13-1.

“I was so impressed by their play in the tournament,” said the coach. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids to work with.”

In hindsight, McKinney says that he probably should have called a timeout in his team’s last game when they were playing shorthanded in the final minutes of the third.

“Yeah, I should have given the PKers [penalty killers] a rest, but all credit to the North Okanagan player who scored the winner. It was a great effort on his part.”

McKinney, who comes from a basketball background and is in his first year of coaching lacrosse, sees lots of parallels between the two sports.

“I’m just catching onto the similarities – the picks, the passing, the motion offense. Over time, I think I’ll be able to help the kids a lot more.”

One of the highlights of the Thunder’s play this past weekend was the use of three different players in net over the course of the tournament. Gavin Woodland, Peyton Fox and Leighton Pockrant all spent time between the pipes.

“They all wanted to play goalie,” explained McKinney, “which is really unusual. Some teams have a tough time even finding one player who wants to be in net. All three were great.”

Three Thunder players took care of the scoring on the weekend: Ethan Thygesen (11), Austin Hawkins (10) and Spencer Vaughan (6). Beckett Finch was outstanding in a defensive role.

The Thunder novices will have two final chances to pick up their first win of the season as they play a home-and-home series against two different North Okanagan teams this coming weekend. If the Thunder’s final tournament game was any indication, that elusive victory just might come their way.