From the road to the Rhodes: T-Birds return to the Rhodes tonight for game 3 of the West Division final

By Matt Stefano

After picking up back-to-back 5-2 victories against the Greater Sudbury Cubs in game 1 and in game 2 of the NOJHL West Division final series last week in Sudbury, the Soo Thunderbirds will now be back on John Rhodes ice tonight for game 3 of series, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

The Thunderbirds, who are up two-games-to-none in the NOJHL West Division final series, are also just two wins away from punching their ticket into the NOJHL final for the second straight year.

“These next two games against the Cubs won’t be easy,” said Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria, who is entering tonight’s game with 7 points in 7 games this playoff season. “Greater Sudbury is a fast paced skilled team that competes for a full sixty minutes every night, and we know they are not going to give us anything. Therefore, we need to play a full sixty minutes and we need to be hard to play against all over the ice and score on the chances we generate.”

So far during this playoff season, the T-Birds have a perfect 5-0 record on the road and have a 1-1 record on home ice.

The last time the Thunderbirds started a playoff season with a 5-0 record on the road, was back in 2013.

“I believe the key to getting our road victories so far has been the start to our games,” Santa Maria said. “We have really focused on getting the first goal of the game, because it is always easier to play when you have the lead. Playing with the lead helps everyone get involved.”

So far in this West Division final series against the Cubs, forwards Daniel Beaupre and Wyatt Marlow have both led the way offensively for the T-Birds with four points each.

Marlow has two goals and two assists and Beaupre has one goal and three assists.

Marlow’s two goals and two assists all came in the Thunderbirds 5-2 victory against the Cubs in game 1 of the series last Thursday in Sudbury.

“Our series against the Cubs has been good so far,” Marlow said. “When you follow a coach’s system, it leads everyone to success.”

Beaupre, who has one goal and three assists against the Cubs in this series, scored the insurance goal of the game in the Thunderbirds 5-2 victory over the Cubs in game 2 last Friday night in Sudbury.

Before coming over to the T-Birds in a trade from the Timmins Rock last September, Beaupre never had playoff experience in his junior A career.

“My first playoff season has been a ton of fun so far, and this is where it really matters,” Beaupre said. “So far in this playoff season, our leaders have been doing a great job of leading by example and I’m just trying to match that standard.”

Another player who seems to be having success this season against the Cubs is T-Birds affiliate player Declan Gallivan.

In a total of 7 games played (Including two in the playoffs) this season with the T-Birds, Gallivan has recorded four points, including three against Greater Sudbury.

“Whenever I play against good teams in this league, it makes me want to play my best to show that I can perform against the best of the best, and this Sudbury team is one of those teams,” Gallivan said. “It also helps when I play in Sudbury on the Olympic ice surface, because there’s more time and more space.”

In his fifth game played with the T-Birds back on February 16, which was a regular season game in Sudbury, Gallivan scored his first NOJHL goal and set up another to help lead the T-Birds to a 6-2 victory over the Cubs at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.

That night, Gallivan was also named third star of the game.

“It felt amazing get my first goal that night (February 16) and help the T-Birds get the victory on Sudbury’s ice,” Gallivan said. “Everything was going our way that night, we stuck to the structure and it felt like we were on a power play all night long. Following that great game I had in Sudbury, my teammates showed me great support and made me feel like I belonged.”

In his seventh game played with the T-Birds, which was in game 2 of the NOJHL West Division final last Friday in Sudbury, Gallivan scored the game-winning goal in the T-Birds 5-2 victory over the Cubs.

“The feeling in game 2 was unmatched, knowing that I contributed to close out that game on the road and put our team in a great spot heading back home for the next two games of this series,” Gallivan said.

Gallivan, who has been getting some ice time with the Soo Thunderbirds, was also a member of the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds this season, where he was coached under Jamie Henderson.

As a member of the Jr. Greyhounds this season, the 2007-birth-year blueliner recorded 9 goals and 25 points in 28 games played.

After helping the Jr. Greyhounds win the regular season title this season, Gallivan and the Hounds then ended up falling short against the North Bay Under-18 Trappers in the Great North Under-18 Hockey League final.

“It was heartbreaking to lose to North Bay in the final this year,” Gallivan said. “We had such a good team with a lot of talent and had a lot of good kids. It still stings that we came up short, but I wouldn’t give hockey up for anything else.”

Gallivan, who has so far played in both games in this series against the Cubs, is hoping to help the T-Birds advance to the Centennial Cup tournament again this year, and believes the team this year can win it (The Centennial Cup).”

“I have now doubt that our team can win the Centennial Cup this year,” Gallivan said. “So far in the playoffs, the guys have shown that they are willing to do anything and everything to get there. We deserve nothing less than an NOJHL championship.”

(Photo credit to Bob Davies)

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