By Matt Stefano
Last season, the Soo Thunderbirds finished off with a perfect 2-0 record in the first annual NOJHL Showcase Tournament in Sudbury, which included a 2-1 win over Elliot Lake and a 4-3 victory against the Espanola Express.
After opening up the second annual NOJHL Showcase Tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Hearst Lumberjacks on Tuesday afternoon, the Soo Thunderbirds were looking to close out the two-day event with a win over the Cochrane Crunch on Wednesday afternoon at the Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.
Through two meetings against the Crunch this season, the Thunderbirds have defeated them both times while outscoring them 7-4.
Overage forward Alex Acosta, who led the Thunderbirds in points during the month of September, opened the scoring just 2:22 into the first period on the power play from Nick Smith and Kaidan McDonald, giving the Thunderbirds an early 1-0 lead.
Acosta’s goal was also his first in nine games.
The Thunderbirds would take a 2-0 lead after the first period, courtesy of Nick Smith’s team-leading eighth goal of the season on the power play at 10:36 from Kaidan McDonald and Noah Solinger.
Smith would then score his second goal of the game at the 13:59 mark of the second to give the Thunderbirds a 3-0 cushion after two periods of play.
Assistant captains Kaidan McDonald and Noah Solinger would draw the assists on what would be Smith’s ninth goal of the campaign.
There was no score in the final period, but the Thunderbirds would go on to blank the Cochrane Crunch 3-0 at the Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.
The Thunderbirds have also finished the NOJHL Showcase Tournament with a perfect 2-0 record for the second straight year.
Crunch goaltender Shayne Battler gave up 3 goals on 36 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds rookie net-minder Eric Schuch turned aside 32 shots for his second straight shutout.
Schuch also became the first goalie in Thunderbird history to record a shutout at the NOJHL Showcase.
With the win, the first place Thunderbirds have now improved their overall record to 10 wins, 3 losses, and 1 overtime loss.
They are also the first NOJHL team to hit 10 wins on the season.
Thunderbirds resume action on Saturday night, when they take on the Blind River Beavers at 7:30 p.m. from the Blind River Community Centre.
(Photo of Eric Schuch credit to Jim Egan)