By Matt Stefano
After dropping a 5-0 decision to the Blind River Beavers on Friday night in the Soo, the Soo Thunderbirds were right back in action just 24 hours later as they took on the Espanola Express on Saturday night at the John Rhodes.
Both the Thunderbirds and the Express were also coming off shutout losses back on Friday night in their home rinks.
After trailing the Express 2-0 after the first period, the Thunderbirds came back to score six unanswered goals, including three in the second and three in the third, as they went on to defeat the Express by a score of 6-2 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
“The boys showed a lot tonight,” said Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson. “We didn’t get off to a great start, but we got better as the game went on and really took over. It was great to see contributions from up and down the lineup and the guys definitely earned the two points tonight.”
The Thunderbirds, who trailed 2-0 after twenty minutes of play, then ended up getting three goals in the second period while outshooting the Express 23-1 in the middle frame.
“We came out a little bit slow in the first period, but we picked it up and we came out with the two points,” said Thunderbirds rookie defenceman and Soo Greyhounds 2021 fourth round pick Andrew Gibson.
On Saturday night, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson had a big night offensively as he scored a pair of goals and set up another, giving him his sixth career multi-point game.
With the Thunderbirds trailing 2-0 heading into the second period, Gibson scored his first goal of the night and 10th goal of the season just 41 seconds into the second period, which cut Espanola’s lead to 2-1.
Gibson’s 10th goal, also set the new Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals by a rookie defenceman in a regular season, passing Caleb Boman, who held the previous record with 9 back in 2014-2015.
“It feels awesome, but I have to thank all the guys who feed me the puck, because they give me alot of opportunities to score,” Gibson said.
Gibson, who scored his 10th goal of the season, also became the first Thunderbird defenceman to score 10 goals in a regular season since Caleb Boman and Matt Busby both did back in 2015-2016.
The Soo Greyhounds prospect would then get his second goal of the night and 11th goal of the season on the power play at the 19:20 mark of the third period, which at that time made the score 6-2 for the Soo.
“Playing with the Thunderbirds this year has been really good for my development,” Gibson said. “All the guys have been treating me really well and the coaching staff is hard on me when they need to be, but it’s awesome being here and contributing to the team.”
Saturday night’s game was also a memorable one for Thunderbirds forward Cole Delarosbil as he finally found the net for the first time in a Soo Thunderbirds uniform.
Delarosbil, who entered Saturday night’s game with 0 goals in his first 17 games played this season, notched his first goal of the season and his first goal against his former team, the Espanola Express.
“It definitely feels pretty good,” Delarosbil said. “I’ve been struggling to put the puck in the back of the net, but it finally came through tonight (Saturday) and I’m glad we got the win.”
Delarosbil, who found the back of the net at the 15:48 mark of the second period, also scored his first goal of the season in front of his grandmother Theresa, who was in attendance at the John Rhodes Community Centre while celebrating her 94th birthday.
“It felt pretty special,” Delarosbil said. “It was her 94th birthday and I’m just glad I can make her happy and it’s always nice having her here at the rink.”
On Saturday night, the Thunderbirds also saw a great performance from their captain Brock Santa Maria, who finished the night with two goals and one assist.
Santa Maria’s first of two goals came on the power play at the 18:24 mark of the second period, which at that time gave the Soo a 3-2 lead.
The Thunderbirds captain would then get his second of the night and 5th goal of the season at the 8:33 mark of the third period, making the score 4-2 for the Soo.
Kenny Belanger Jr. also had a big night offensively for the Thunderbirds with a goal and an assist while Youssef Chaouachi also had a multi-point game of his own, with two assists.
Kolby Fellinger, Kyle Trottier and Russell Oldham also all got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds with one assist each.
Josh Rumolo and Ty McHutchion had the goals for the Express while James Eng and Josh Boucher had one assist each.
Express goaltender Patrick Boivin gave up 6 goals on 54 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds newly signed netminder Nolan Chartrand made 17 saves in his Thunderbird debut.
The Thunderbirds will now be back in action on Sunday afternoon when they visit Elliot Lake for a road game against the Elliot Lake Red Wings.
Puck drop for that game is set for 2:30 p.m. at Centennial Arena.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)