By Matt Stefano
Dharan Cap’s shorthanded tally with just six seconds to go in the second period turned out to be the insurance goal of the game, as the Soo Thunderbirds went on to defeat the Blind River Beavers by a score of 6-2 in game 5 of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series on Friday night at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River.
With the win, the T-Birds have now eliminated the Blind River Beavers four-games-to-one in the NOJHL West Division semifinal series, and will now move on to play the Greater Sudbury Cubs in the NOJHL West Division final.
The T-Birds, who eliminated the Beavers on Friday night in game 5, fell behind to the Beavers 1-0 almost thirteen minutes into the first period, before going on to score four straight goals to build a 4–1 lead through forty minutes.
“We didn’t have our best start to the game tonight, but Milsy (T-Birds goaltender Landon Miller) was great right from the start and our captain (Brock Santa Maria) got us going early in the second period with a good physical shift,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett.
With the T-Birds on a penalty kill late in the second period, Dharan Cap intercepted a give-away made by Beavers goaltender Charlie Burns in his own crease and slid in his 5th goal of the playoffs at the 19:54 mark of the second to give the Soo a 4-1 lead heading into the third.
The goal also extended Cap’s goal-scoring streak to five games.
“Capper was a beast all series long and he came up huge again for us tonight,” Jarrett said.
Cap, who extended his goal-scoring streak to five games, also became the first T-Bird player to have a five-game goal-scoring streak during a postseason since Nick Minardi (T-Birds all-time goals leader) did back in 2009.
“Being the first T-Bird player to have a five-game goal-scoring streak in a postseason in such a long time is a great feeling and it felt even better to top it off with a series clinching victory tonight in B.R. (Blind River),” Cap said.
The T-Birds, who eliminated the Beavers four-games-to-one in the NOJHL West Division semifinal series, also picked up three out of their four wins of the series on Blind River Community Centre ice.
The T-Birds also had more wins against the Beavers on Blind River Community Centre ice than any other team in the NOJHL during the regular season.
“We play there (Blind River Community Centre) pretty often throughout the regular season, so there’s a familiarity with that rink and the bounces,” Jarrett said. “With Blind River being one of our closest rivals, it’s easy to get up for every game against them.”
“It was great to get the win and end the series tonight in their own rink,” added Cap. “The team had a complete effort from everyone tonight and that’s what got the job done.”
During Friday night’s game, the T-Birds got multi-point efforts from three different players, including Anton Petrovskiy, Michael Chaffay and Brock Santa Maria.
Petrovskiy finished the night with a pair of goals, including one on the power play while Chaffay finished the night with a goal and an assist.
Santa Maria also had a two-point game of his own on Friday night, as he chipped in with two assists, good for his third multi-point game of the playoffs.
Youssef Chaouachi and Justin Mauro (Power play) had the other goals for the T-Birds on Friday night while Wyatt Marlow, Ethan Novello and Ranon Joseph all chipped in with one assist each.
Mauro’s goal, came on the power play at the 11:21 mark of the second period, which proved to be the game-winner.
“It felt great to score the game-winner tonight,” said Mauro, who scored the game-winning goal against his former team (The Blind River Beavers), who he played three seasons with from 2018-2021. “It was a crucial part of the game and I knew we had a huge opportunity on that power play and we had to capitalize.”
Caleb Minns and Daniel Vasic had the goals for the Beavers while Gavin Rocha, Joshua Thompson and Matthew Green all chipped in with one assist each.
Beavers goaltender Charlie Burns gave up 6 goals on 37 shots while T-Birds netmimder Landon Miller made 20 saves for the victory.
The West Division final against the Greater Sudbury Cubs is expected to get underway on April 6 with dates and times still to be announced.
“Sudbury will be a tough opponent and we can’t take them lightly,” Cap said. “We’ll have to give our best efforts every night if we want to make it to the NOJHL final.”
During the 2022-2023 regular season, the Blind River Beavers set new franchise records for most wins in a regular season with 42 and points during a regular season with 89.
They also set a new franchise record for most goals scored during a regular season with 244.
The 2022-2023 regular season also saw both Beaver netminders set franchise records of their own, as Beavers veteran goaltender Gavin Disano set a franchise record for most wins by a Beaver goaltender during a regular season with 24, while Beavers rookie netminder Charlie Burns set a franchise record for most shutouts by a Beaver goaltender in a regular season with 6.
Both Disano and Burns are also from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
(Photo of Soo Thunderbirds forward Dharan Cap credit to Bob Davies)