By Matt Stefano
Michael Chaffay had a night to remember across the river!
On Friday night in game 3 of the NOJHL West Division final, Soo Thunderbirds forward Michael Chaffay recorded his first career playoff hat trick to lead his hometown Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win against the Soo Eagles at Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The win also gave the Thunderbirds a three-games-to-none lead in the NOJHL West Division final series.
“It felt great to score my first career playoff hat trick,” Chaffay said. “The crowd at the Pullar Stadium was loud and hostile and I’m just happy we were able to get the win in a tough environment.”
Chaffay, who scored his 5th, 6th and 7th goals of the postseason on Friday night, also moved into sole possession of first among all NOJHL players in postseason goals, passing Hearst Lumberjacks forward Ryan Glazer (6).
Two of Chaffay’s goals on Friday night also came on the man advantage.
“Our power play is always on point,” Chaffay said. “We just capitalized on our chances tonight.”
Chaffay, who also gave himself his 9th, 10th and 11th points of the postseason, also moved into first among all NOJHL players in postseason scoring, passing Hearst Lumberjacks forwards Raphael Lajeunesse (10) and Zachary Demers (10).
“I’m just going to continue to play my game on Saturday night and see we’ll see what happens,” Chaffay said. “I’m really happy with they way we’re playing right now.”
Friday night’s game also saw two other Thunderbird players get multi-point games, including forwards Cooper Foster and Kelsey Ouellet.
Foster finished the night with a goal and an assist while Ouellet finished off with a pair of helpers.
“Cooper is a great play maker with a ton of skill and he can get me the puck pretty easily. Kelsey is a competitor who also has a ton of skill, and both him and Cooper make my job pretty easy,” Chaffay said of his linemates (Foster and Ouellet).
Blueliners Kaden Dundas and Andrew Gibson also got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds on Friday night as they recorded one assist each.
Dundas, who recorded an assist on Friday night, also gave himself his 7th point of the postseason, which moved him into a tie with Hearst Lumberjacks defenceman Jaden Raad for first among all NOJHL blueliners in postseason points.
Zach Briskey had the only goal for the Eagles on Friday night with assists going to Charlie Salem and Sam Holy.
Briskey’s goal on Friday night, came at the 16:02 mark of the second period, which at that time cut the Thunderbirds lead to 3-1.
Eagles goaltender Ryan Gilmore gave up 4 goals on 30 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Noah Zeppa made 24 saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds, who are now just one win away from advancing to the NOJHL final, will look to make it happen on Saturday night with a win against the Soo Eagles in game 4 of the NOJHL West Division final series.
Puck drop for game 4 on Saturday night is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Pullar Stadium.
“We got off to a quick start which was important in front of a good crowd in Soo Michigan,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, who will be looking to punch his ticket into the NOJHL final in just his first season behind the bench. “I thought we did a really good job of controlling the pace tonight and we will be looking to do the same tomorrow (Saturday).”
FOSTER’S AN EARLY BIRD
For the second time in this series against the Soo Eagles, Thunderbirds rookie forward Cooper Foster has scored a goal less than a minute into a period.
In game 3 of the West Division final series against the Soo Eagles on Friday night at the Pullar Stadium, Foster opened the scoring just 34 seconds into the first period to give the Thunderbirds an early 1-0 lead.
Then, in game 1 against the Soo Eagles back on Tuesday night at the John Rhodes, Foster scored a goal just 37 seconds into the third period, which led to a 3-1 win over the Eagles.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)