By Matt Stefano
After eliminating the Elliot Lake Wildcats in five games during the West Division final series back on Saturday, April 9th, the Soo Thunderbirds began game one of the NOJHL finals on Friday night against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
The last time these two teams met in the NOJHL finals was back in 2013-2014, where the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners went on to win the series in six games to give them their first Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in franchise history.
During the 2015-2016 regular season, the T-Birds won three times against the Gold Miners and lost just once in overtime.
Through those four regular season meetings, the T-Birds have outscored the Gold Miners 11-6.
After a scoreless first period, Caleb Boman’s power play goal from Matt Caruso and Nathan Hebert with just twenty two seconds left in the second, put the T-Birds up 1-0 through two.
At the 15:04 mark of the third, it would be T-Birds defenceman Caleb Boman getting his second of the night from Matt Busby to put the Soo up by two.
An unassisted goal by Zach Senecal at 18:43 into an empty net put things away as the T-Birds went on to blank the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 3-0 in game one of the NOJHL finals at the Essar Centre.
T-Birds defenceman Caleb Boman, who recently signed his letter of intent to play for the Niagara Purple Eagles in NCAA Division 1 hockey for next season, earned first star of the game with a pair of goals.
“We just battled through every period,” said Boman. “A couple of things happened just to set us back a little bit, but we kept pushing through and we finished off the game the way we wanted to.”
During the middle frame, the T-Birds outshot the Gold Miners 18-0.
“The guys decided to start sacrificing the body,” concluded Boman. “We know it’s the final round and we want to win and go into the Dud as champions. So, we just pulled through the second and went on to accomplish the win tonight.”
T-Birds goaltender Connor Ryckman made eleven saves for his league leading fifth shutout of the postseason while Joe Marcoullier gave up two goals on forty one shots for the Gold Miners loss.
Ryckman, who recorded his fifth shutout of the postseason, also set the new T-Birds record for most shutouts in a single playoff season, passing Ryan Dube (2009), Adam Hanna (2002) and Brian Kmemt (2015), who all shared the previous record with four.
The 2012 fourteenth round pick of the OHL’s Barrie Colts, also tied Brian Kment (2014 & 2015) for most career playoff shutouts with five.
“It feels great, but I can’t do do it by myself,” said Ryckman. “Tonight was a full team effort that helped me the whole way and I couldn’t be more happy.”
The Minesing, Ontario native, who signed with the T-Birds back in January, has been a key player in the NOJHL postseason thus far.
“Coming over to the T-Birds has helped me a lot and I’m definitely evolving in my game,” continued Ryckman. “It’s nice to have accomplishments like this on my resume.”
The T-Birds will now get set for game two of the NOJHL finals on Saturday, April 16th at 7:00 p.m. from the Essar Centre.
“We will take this one game at a time, one period at a time, and we’ll go from there,” concluded Ryckman.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)