Big third period helps T-Birds win 9th straight

By Matt Stefano

They recorded a season low 22 shots on net, but the Soo Thunderbirds still managed to find the back of the net on Tuesday night, as they defeated the Blind River Beavers 7-5 at the Essar Centre.

The win extended the T-Birds winning streak to nine games while snapping the Beavers winning streak at two.

“We faced some adversity at the start, but we managed to play the system and make it simple,” said T-Birds defenceman Wyatt Villalta.

After being tied 1-1 after one, and 3-3 after two, a four goal third period would help the Soo win their final home game before the Christmas break and new year.

“We put our hard hats on and went to work. Potted some goals, started shooting and it just worked out for us,” continued the rookie defenceman.

In his 16th game played on Tuesday night, Villalta also scored his first career NOJHL goal at the 11:59 mark of the second period.

“If feels great to pot my first one. My rookie season is going pretty good. I had a rough start with my ankle injury, but I’m back at it, I feel better than ever and just having a fun time,” said the Godfrey, Ontario native.

T-Birds captain Matt Caruso scored twice and added an assist on the night while assistant captain Jake Behse set up three goals.

Austin Kozluk had a goal and an assist while Ryan Waterhouse and Keegan Stevenson chipped in with two assists each.

Zach Senecal (power play), Greg Smith (empty net) and Noah Solinger had the other goals for the Soo.

Mark Tassone also got on the scoresheet with one assist.

Beavers assistant captain Yianni Liarakos scored twice, including once on the power play while Mark Bastianello set up two goals.

Jacob Papesh (power play), Zak Lambrecht (short handed) and Anthony Pullicino had the other goals for Blind River.

Caleb Serre, Steven Khull and Max Khull all chipped in with one assist each.

Beavers goalie Myles Hektor gave up 5 goals on 17 shots before being replaced in net by Aidan Doak, who stopped 3 out of 4 shots the rest of the way.

T-Birds goalie Doug Newhouse gave up 3 goals on 17 shots before being replaced in net by Brandon Gordon, who stopped 9 out of 11 shots the rest of the way.

The T-Birds will now play three more games all on the road before the Christmas break and new year, beginning on Friday, December 16th at 7:30 p.m. in Kirkland Lake.

“Right now we will just listen to coach Smitty. He’s been giving me a lot of advice. Just keeping it simple, not get too far up in the play and I’m just playing my role on the team,” said Villalta.

In this week’s CJHL top 20 weekly rankings, the T-Birds moved from honourable mention to 12th in the country.

“It’s going to be a hard road trip this weekend, but we’re looking forward to it as a team,” concluded Villalta.

(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)

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