By Matt Stefano
Mauro and Marlow.
Those are the two names fans in stands heard the most over the PA system on Friday night at the John Rhodes.
On Friday night, in the Soo Thunderbirds first game of the new year, forwards Justin Mauro and Wyatt Marlow both led the way offensively with four points each as the Soo Thunderbirds defeated the Espanola Paper Kings by a score of 5-3.
Mauro finished the night with a goal and three helpers while Marlow finished the night with a pair of goals and two assists.
“Since Mauro and Marlow were put together on the same line, they have really responded,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, who just celebrated his 40th birthday back on Wednesday. “I met with both of them before tonight’s game and we were talking about how much they mean to this team and how big of leaders that they are. I’m not surprised because they are both twenty-year old players and they should have that type of success. I’m not taking anything away from them because they’re working for it and they’re earning it.”
With the Paper Kings taking a penalty for two many men on the ice early in the first period, the Thunderbirds struck first on the power play just 2:07 in, courtesy of Wyatt Marlow’s 13th goal of the season from Brodie McConnell-Barker and Justin Mauro, making the score 1-0 for the Soo.
Marlow’s power play goal also turned out to be his third power play goal of the season.
The Paper Kings would then respond with a power play goal of their own almost seven and a half minutes later, courtesy of Spencer Horgan’s 6th goal of the season from Hunter Friesen and Will Bishop, which tied things up at one goal apiece.
With the game tied 1-1 with just under six minutes to go in the opening period of play, it would then be Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria getting his 5th goal of the season from Justin Mauro and Wyatt Marlow at 14:10, making the score 2-1 for the Soo heading into the second period.
With the Thunderbirds leading the Paper Kings 2-1 early in the second, it would then be Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria striking again just 3:18 in, with his second goal of the game and 6th goal of the season from Justin Mauro and Ranon Joseph, which put the Soo up by two.
Joseph, who drew an assist on Santa Maria’s tally, also gave himself his first point in a Soo Thunderbirds uniform.
The Paper Kings would then respond with a goal of their own just 1:33 later, courtesy of Hunter Friesen’s 5th goal of the season from Liam Bridgeman and Graydon Guthrie, which cut the Thunderbirds lead to 3-2.
The Paper Kings then ended up tying the game just 1:02 later, as defenceman Will Bishop would then notch his first career NOJHL tally from Lucas Signoretti and Spencer Horgan, which made the score 3-3.
Bishop’s first career NOJHL goal also turned out to be his second point of the evening, which gave the London, Ontario native his first career multi-point game.
After giving up back-to-back goals just 1:02 apart, the Thunderbirds would then retake the lead at the 15:27 mark of the second, courtesy of Justin Mauro’s 7th goal of the season from Wyatt Marlow and Brock Santa Maria, making the score 4-3 for the Soo heading into the third period.
With Paper Kings goaltender Jake Marois on the bench for an extra attacker late in the game, it would then be Thunderbirds forward Wyatt Marlow getting his second goal of the night into an empty net, making the score 5-3 for the Thunderbirds.
Paper Kings goaltender Jake Marois gave up 4 goals on 49 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Kolton Bourret made 28 stops for the victory.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now extended their winning streak to eight consecutive games and still remain in third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
“We were off for almost three weeks and it was good for us mentally,” said Jarrett. “When the boys came back on Tuesday for our first practice of the new year, they were all feeling good and they were also excited about what’s to come in the second half of the season. They all recognize that we can do something fun and special again like we did last season. To answer the question about tonight’s game, I thought we got off to a good start to start off the new year. Tonight wasn’t the prettiest of games and I’m sure Rapper (Paper Kings head coach Jason Rapcewicz) would tell you the same thing. We were a little sloppy at times and we were a little bit away from our structure at times, but ultimately I thought the boys did a good job of getting the two points.”
The Thunderbirds will now be right back in action on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., when they make a visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to take on the Soo Eagles at Pullar Stadium.
MATIER WINS GOLD
On Thursday night in Halifax, former Soo Thunderbirds affiliate player Jack Matier helped lead Team Canada to their second straight gold medal as they defeated Team Czechia by a score of 3-2 in overtime at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Matier, who is also from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, finished this year’s tournament with 1 assist in 7 games played.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)