Fast start leads Thunderbirds to victory over Cubs

By Matt Stefano

A pair of early goals in the first period helped the Soo Thunderbirds come out with a big two points on Friday night in their first game of the new year.

On Friday night, the Thunderbirds scored two goals on their first two shots of the game, which eventually led to a 6-2 victory over the Greater Sudbury Cubs at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

Friday night’s game was also the Thunderbirds first game in 49 days.

“I thought it was a really good game tonight,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “It’s been a while for these guys and we were itching to get back and tonight we came out really hard in the first period, especially in the first four minutes when we built a nice two-goal cushion. I didn’t love our game from there, but we talked about things before the game and we just try to manage expectations and we’ve all been off the ice for over a month. We knew our legs were going to be heavy and we knew the hockey stick was going to get heavy eventually during the game, but for the most part we did a good job and the guys managed the puck and their time well.”

The Thunderbirds opened the scoring on their first shot on net just 39 seconds into the game, courtesy of Cooper Foster’s 9th goal of the season from Michael Chaffay.

Foster, who opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds on their first shot of the game, also got some ice time with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s during the month of January.

“Cooper is a smart player,” Jarrett said. “His game translates a number of different levels and he’s been a horse for us. It was a great opportunity for Cooper during the NOJHL lockdown in January to be able to go there (Ottawa) and see what he can do at the OHL level.”

In 7 games played with the 67’s during the month of January, Foster recorded 3 assists and 4 shots on goal.

So far this season, Foster has skated in a total 13 games with the 67’s, and has recorded 4 assists and 0 penalty minutes.

“I’m not surprised that Cooper’s having success at the next level,” Jarrett said. “I know his goal is to play with the 67’s next season and it was unfortunate that the NOJHL was locked down during the month of January, but it was a great opportunity for him to see what that next level was all about.”

Foster, who opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds on Friday night, finished the game with a goal and two assists and was named first star of the game.

Following Foster’s goal, the Thunderbirds then took a 2-0 lead on their second shot on net, courtesy of Russell Oldham’s first goal of the season from Kyle Trottier at the 3:20 mark of the first period.

The Thunderbirds led 2-0 after twenty minutes of play.

The Cubs would then cut the Thunderbirds lead to 2-1 just 25 ticks into the middle frame, courtesy of Josh Boucher’s 6th goal of the season on the power play from Cameron Walker and Jaxon Bedard.

Boucher’s goal also came on the Cubs first shot on net of the second period.

The Thunderbirds then got a goal from forward Dharan Cap at the 7:29 mark of the second period from Kolby Fellinger and Kelsey Ouellet, which put the Soo up 3–1 after two periods of play.

Then, just 5:27 into the third period, it would be Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson getting his 14th goal of the season on the power play from Cooper Foster and Michael Chaffay, putting the Thunderbirds ahead by three goals.

Gibson, who scored his 14th goal of the season, also tied the Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals by a defenceman in a regular season, joining Caleb Boman (2015-2016).

“Gibson is having a really good rookie season and the numbers speak for themselves,” Jarrett said. “I remember 2015-2016 was also the season I was helping out with the Soo Thunderbirds when Jordan Smith was the head coach and I remember Boman had a big shot and he used it and he was a very intelligent player. Gibby’s also a kid who loves to shoot the puck and he’s not afraid to. So far this year, Gibson’s had a lot of success shooting the puck and we’ll look for him to keep doing that.”

Following Gibson’s goal, the Thunderbirds then took a 5-1 lead just 2:06 later, courtesy of Kelsey Ouellet’s 8th goal of the season on the power play from Cooper Foster and Andrew Gibson.

The Cubs then cut the Thunderbirds lead to 5-2 at the 15:06 mark of the third period, courtesy of Kyler Campbell’s team-leading 23rd goal of the season, unassisted.

Just 2:41 after Campbell’s goal, the Thunderbirds then got a goal from Dharan Cap, who scored his second goal of the night and third goal of the season from Colby Arbour, which made the score 6-2 for the Soo.

Cap, who scored his second goal of the night, also gave himself his first career two-goal game.

“Cap is a big body who moves well and he’s a very responsible player and a very disciplined player,” Jarrett said. “Anytime you see somebody get rewarded for playing the right way, you’re happy for them and that was the case with Cap tonight. He went to the dirty areas a couple times and got rewarded for it.”

Cubs goaltender Jake Marois gave up 6 goals on 40 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Noah Zeppa made 20 saves for the victory.

Zeppa, who picked up the victory in net for the Thunderbirds, was also back in the Thunderbirds lineup after taking a leave of absence from the team in late October.

“We’re extremely happy for Noah,” Jarrett said. “We’re happy that he’s back and his commitment level showed tonight and it was like he hadn’t missed a beat since the last time he played and it just goes to show you that hard work can take you a long way.”

The Thunderbirds will now be back in action on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., when they take on the Powassan Voodoos at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

It will also be the first time this season that the Thunderbirds will be facing a team from the East Division.

(Photo credit to Bob Davies)


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