Bugeja makes 41 saves, Thunderbirds double up Beavers

By Matt Stefano

After doubling up the Blind River Beavers by a score of 8-4 in game one of the COVID Cup series back on Sunday afternoon, the Soo Thunderbirds were back in action on Thursday night for game two of the series at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

Thursday night’s game also saw the return of rookie defenceman Connor Toms, who was back in the Thunderbirds lineup after serving a two-game suspension.

A 41 save performance from goaltender Alex Bugeja turned out to be huge on Thursday night at the John Rhodes as the Thunderbirds doubled up the Beavers by a score of 4-2.

“I felt like right after the first pick drop I was really in the zone and my goal was just to continue that all the way through,” said Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja.

The Thunderbirds led 4-0 after forty minutes of play, before allowing two power play goals in the third period.

“I lost my head a little bit when I got called on a penalty, but then I just had to refocus again and at the end of the third I felt like I did a really good job bringing it back around,” said Bugeja.

On Thursday night, Thunderbirds leading scorer Cooper Smyl scored a pair of goals, including a shortanded tally.

Smyl’s shortanded tally at the 7:40 mark of the second period, made the score 3-0 for the Thunderbirds and proved to be the game-winner.

“Smyl’s pulling what he can for us and he’s putting those pucks at the back of the net and it really adds up for us at the end of the game,” said Bugeja.

Smyl, who also scored his second shortanded goal of the season, became the third Thunderbird to hit two shortanded goals this season, joining his teammates Connor Toms and Parker Morgan

“I think it just shows us how bad we want the puck. When we see an opening we really go for it and we don’t give it up until we get what we want,” said Bugeja.

On Thursday night, the Thunderbirds also saw another multi-point game from defenceman Cam Dutkiewicz.

Dutkiewicz, who had two power play tallies and a pair of helpers back on Sunday afternoon, scored a power play goal and set up another on Thursday night, giving him his second straight multi-point game.

Thunderbirds forward Kurtis Rogers also had a multi-point night with a pair of assists while former Beaver and current Thunderbirds forward Andrew Malek had one goal for the Soo.

Tyson Doucette, Ty Zachary, Connor Toms, Russell Oldham and Noah Boman all got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds with one assist each.

Beavers forward and NOJHL’s leading scorer Jacob Kelly finished the night with a power play goal and an assist while Thomas Michaud also got on the scoresheet with a power play goal of his own.

Michaud’s goal also turned out to be his 7th goal in just his sixth game played with the Beavers.

Beaver forwards Noah Minns, Devin Mauro and Spencer Kennedy also got on the scoresheet with one assist each.

Blind River goaltender Wyatt Courchaine gave up 4 goals on 39 shots in the loss.

The Thunderbirds will now get set for game 3 of the COVID-Cup series, which will be on Saturday, March 20, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River.

“We need to go over there like it’s a brand new hockey game with nothing carrying over. We have to act like they want it just as much as we do and I’m sure they are, if not more. We just need to hold on all the way,” said Bugeja.


On Monday, March 15, former Soo Thunderbird defenceman Robert Calisti made his American Hockey League debut with the Belleville Senators.

The Senators, who are the affiliate team of the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, lost on Monday by a score of 3-2 the Laval Rocket .

Despite the loss, Calisti picked up an assist on the second Senators goal, giving him his first career American Hockey League point in his first ever professional hockey game.

(Photo of Alex Bugeja credit to Bob Davies)




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