By Matt Stefano
Saturday night marked the final game for the Soo Thunderbirds before the Christmas break and new year as they took on the Timmins Rock at the Essar Centre.
With the T-Birds winning all fourteen of their home games this season thus far, the third ranked team in the nation was looking to go perfect at home heading into the holiday season for the first time since 2013-2014.
For the third straight game, T-Birds forward Matt Caruso was named first star of the game, recording a pair of goals including one shorthanded and two helpers to lead the T-Birds to a 5-2 win over the Timmins Rock.
“It feels great,” said Caruso. “Big four points in the weekend, we got a little scared there in the first period, but we came in the room and got the boys settled down, then went out there and finished the game strong.”
“It feels great going home with your family and celebrating Christmas,” continued Caruso. “It’s going to be really fun, take our mind off hockey for a little bit, but when we come back we have to focus up and finish the rest of the season.”
Caruso also credited his linemates for how his game has been improving this season.
“My linemates Jaren Bellini and Nathan Hebert have been setting me up nice,” concluded Caruso. “Our line is just clicking right now and overall I think our whole team is clicking and we’re getting the job done here.”
Nathan Hebert had a goal and an assist for the T-Birds while Mike Caruso and Jaren Bellini chipped in with two assists each. Single goals went to Brett Jeffries and Mark Tassone (power play) while Matt Busby, Matt Mitchell and Caleb Boman all recorded an assist each.
Ryan Kerr had a short handed tally for the Rock while Zach Kercz also had one goal on the night. Single assists went to Kyle Levis and Jordan Rendle.
T-Birds goalie Mario Culina made fifteen saves for the victory while Logan Ferrington gave up five goals on forty five shots in net for Timmins.
“We feel like we’re a tough team to beat at the Essar Centre,” said T-Birds head coach Jordan Smith. “Big ice, we skate well, we hit and move the puck, so it’s been a good first half and we’re not going to get complacent over the break, but definitely credit goes to the players for a solid first half.”
When asked about what he liked about this team in the first half and what he expects in the second half, Smith said, “I like their willingness to listen and learn still, we’re an old team and a veteran team and a lot of times guys can presence and take it upon themselves. They have to take control, but they’re open, they’re willing to learn and it’s a good sign moving forward.”
Next action for the T-Birds is Saturday, January 2nd at 7:30 p.m. against the Soo Eagles from the Essar Centre.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin)