The middle of the pack in the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference standings is pulling away from the Twin City Thunder.

The Northern Cyclones cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Thunder on Friday at Norway Savings Bank Arena. The Cyclones (23-13-6, 52 points), who sit in fifth place, have a five-point advantage over the eighth-place Thunder (23-20-1, 47 points), who hold the final playoff spot. Twin City is four points behind seventh-place Islanders Hockey Club.

“We aren’t helping ourselves in that regard,” Thunder coach Doug Friedman said following Friday’s setback. “At the end of the day, my take is we need to win probably four games of our six remaining — maybe three, depending on how other teams do.

“In terms of our discussions with our team, we are just looking at it one game at a time. Tomorrow is going to be a battle, our guys better show up to play if we want a chance to beat the Jr. Bruins.”

The Thunder jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when defenseman Oliver Rooth found the back of the net just past the one-minute mark. Andrew Kurapov and Levente Keresztes had the assists.

“It was a good start, the game was even for the first few minutes,” Friedman said. “I will give them credit, going into this, we knew the Cyclones really press hard all over the ice. They pressure really well, they are a good skating team, and our answer to that, we looked like we were completely unprepared and it’s inexcusable.”

Thunder held the lead until about six minutes remaining in the first period when Northern’s’ Niklas Bretschneider scored a shorthanded goal that was set up by Will Gavin and Gunnar Stadem.

The game remained 1-1 until late in the second period when Zach Rehbauam gave the Cyclones a 2-1 lead. With under three minutes remaining in the middle frame, Cade Destefani found the back of the net and stretched the Cyclones’ lead to 3-1.

Twin City allowed another shorthanded goal early in the third period, this one by Michael MacKenzie. Pavel Karasek capped the scoring with under six minutes remaining in the game.

Thunder goalie Alexander Kozic made 49 saves in the loss. Blaine Moore made 28 saves for the Cyclones.

“At the end of the day, the way we play, if we get outshot, we don’t mind, we got a goalie (who candle handle it),” Friedman said. “We kind of left him hanging on a couple of the goals. Our (defensive) zone tonight was not where it needs to be and in general our overall performance wasn’t either.”

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