By Matt Stefano
For the past five seasons, the Soo Thunderbirds have been making it all the way to the NOJHL finals and winning Copeland Cup McNamara Trophies in 2012, 2015 & 2016.
They have also won the Central Canada title (Dudley Hewitt Cup) twice in 2012 & 2015.
But what a difference a season can make.
On Friday night in game 4 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series, the Soo Thunderbirds, who were down three games to none, were looking to avoid elimination against the Soo Eagles at the Pullar Stadium.
And get this, one year ago on March 25th, 2016, the T-Birds swept the Soo Eagles in four straight in the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series, but this year was the opposite.
On Friday night, the T-Birds 2016/2017 season officially came to a close, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Soo Eagles at Pullar Stadium, eliminating the two-time defending NOJHL champions in four straight in the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series.
The teams would trade goals with just under two minutes to play in the first period.
First, it would be defenceman Wyatt Villalta putting the T-Birds up 1-0 at 18:05 from Keegan Stevenson and Austin Kozluk, followed by a Chris Lutz tally at 19:18 from Nate Harris and Adam Ostrowski, tying the game up at one through twenty minutes of action.
Another T-Bird defenceman would find the back of the net early in the middle frame, as Alec Allen would put the T-Birds ahead 2-1 at 3:57 of the second from Austin Kozluk and Keegan Stevenson.
Chris Lutz would get his second goal of the night at 6:29 from Rhett Rampinelli and Gianni Vitali, tying the game up at two through forty minutes of play.
It was also the second straight game the two teams were tied 2-2 heading into the third period.
Jake Palmerio would put the Eagles ahead for the first time in the game, scoring his second goal of the playoffs at 5:13 from Brad Hofelich and William Casey.
A shorthanded tally by Chris Murphy just 1:23 later from Nick Trecroce and Jake Palmerio was the insurance marker, as the T-Birds would drop a 4-2 decision to the Soo Eagles in game 4 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series and have been swept in four straight games.
Kade Phipps made 17 stops for the Eagles victory while Dougie Newhouse, who got his first career NOJHL playoff start, gave up 4 goals on 33 shots in the T-Birds loss.
(Photo of Keegan Stevenson credit to Jim Egan)