By Matt Stefano
A fast start in the first period was once again the difference for the Soo Thunderbirds on Saturday night.
On Saturday night, the Soo Thunderbirds took a 3-0 lead after the first period of play, before going on to a 5-4 victory over the Blind River Beavers in game 2 of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series in Blind River.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now taken a two-games-to-none series lead over the Beavers, with both of those wins coming on Blind River Community Centre ice.
When you look at the first two games of this series, the first period of play has been the most offensive one for the Soo Thunderbirds.
In game 1 of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series back on Thursday night, the Thunderbirds scored a total of five goals in the opening period, before going on to a 6-3 win over the Beavers in Blind River.
Then, on Saturday night in game 2, the Thunderbirds scored three goals in the first period, and ended up beating the Beavers by a score of 5-4.
“Yes, we were able to get off to another fast start tonight (Saturday) which is a credit to the boys for being ready to start on time,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “The challenge now is sustaining that focus for a full sixty minutes.”
During Saturday night’s game, the Thunderbirds went three-for-five on their power play with two of their power play goals coming in the first period.
The last time the Thunderbirds scored three power play goals in a playoff game, was back on March 31, 2019, in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Rayside Balfour Canadians in game 2 of the 2019 NOJHL West Division final at the John Rhodes.
“Special teams will be a key all postseason long, so it’s great that our power play has had success this early,” said Jarrett, whose team now has a total of four power play goals in its first two games of postseason play.
During Saturday night’s game, the Thunderbirds got power play goals from three different players, including Brock Santa Maria, Justin Mauro and Kaden Dundas.
Santa Maria’s power play goal, came at the 13:55 mark of the first period from Ranon Joseph and Jackson Truchan, which at that time gave the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead.
Mauro’s power play goal, then came on a five-minute power play at the 19:39 mark of the first period from Jackson Truchan, which at that time gave the Thunderbirds a 3-0 lead heading into the second.
With the Thunderbirds on a power play late in the second period, it would then be Thunderbirds defenceman Kaden Dundas getting his second goal of the playoffs from Jackson Truchan and Justin Mauro at 17:40, which at that time put the Thunderbirds up 5-2 heading into the third.
The goal by Dundas, was also his second power play goal of the postseason.
“Dunny (Kaden Dundas) has been a beast all year long and he’s carried it over into the playoffs,” Jarrett said. “With a guy like Kolby Fellinger still out of our lineup, Dunny has really stepped his game up and has so far led the way for us on the back end.”
“Our power play has been clicking lately and Truchan made a really nice pass to find me back door,” said Dundas, whose power play goal on Saturday night also turned out to be the game-winner.
Dundas, who scored the game-winning goal on Saturday night, also extended his goal-scoring streak to two games, and now has two goals in his first two games to start the playoffs.
He also became the first Soo Thunderbird defenceman to start a postseason on a two-game goal-scoring streak since Brad Pascall did back in 2012.
“I’ve just been focusing on finding shooting lanes and trying to be able to get open for scoring opportunities,” Dundas said. “I’m also going to continue playing within our structure to help us win games.”
Dharan Cap and Youssef Chaouachi had the other goals for the Thunderbirds on Saturday night while Michael Chaffay also got on the scoresheet with one assist.
Cap’s goal, came at the 8:34 mark of the first period, as he fired a shot upstairs to give the Soo a 1-0 lead.
Chaouachi’s goal, then came at the 13:12 mark of the second period from Michael Chaffay and Brock Santa Maria, which at that time put the Soo up 4-2.
Affiliate player Daniel Vasic had a pair of goals for the Beavers on Saturday night while Gavin Rocha and Jake Kovacs finished the night with a goal and an assist each.
The goal by Kovacs, was a shorthanded tally at the 16:46 mark of the the third period, which at that time cut the Thunderbirds lead to 5-3.
Andrey Manov and Jack Robinson also got on the scoresheet for the Beavers with one assist each.
Beavers goaltender Charlie Burns gave up 5 goals on 27 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Landon Miller made 22 saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds will now be back on John Rhodes ice for game 3 of the series on Monday night at 7:00 p.m.
AT HOME IN BlIND RIVER
During the regular season, the Thunderbirds had more wins on Blind River Community Centre ice than any other team in the NOJHL.
In five visits to the Blind River Community Centre during the regular season, the Thunderbirds defeated the Beavers three times in their own barn.
The Elliot Lake Red Wings had the second most wins on Blind River Community Centre ice during the regular season with two.