Mauro’s third straight game-winning goal helps Paper Kings to third straight win

By Matt Stefano

Three straight wins for Espo.

Three straight game-winning goals for Mauro.

Devin Mauro’s shorthanded tally at the 12:20 mark of the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Espanola Paper Kings extended their winning streak to three games with a 5-3 victory over the Soo Thunderbirds on Saturday night at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex in Espanola.

Mauro, who scored his third straight game-winning goal on Saturday night, also became the first player in franchise history to score three straight game-winning goals.

“It always feels good to score a goal and help put your team up by a few goals, especially when they come shorthanded,” said Paper Kings forward Justin Mauro, who also set up two goals for a three-point night. “Shorthanded goals can kill the momentum of a team’s power play.”

With the Paper Kings down a man just under halfway through the second period, Mauro went in all alone on a breakaway and beat Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller with his 9th goal of the season at 12:20, unassisted, which at that time gave the Paper Kings a 4-0 lead.

After falling behind 4-0 at the 12:20 mark of the second period, the Thunderbirds then came back to score three straight goals, including one in the final frame.

At the 14:29 mark of the second, it would be Thunderbirds leading scorer Dharan Cap getting his 26th goal of the season from Jackson Truchan, which cut the Paper Kings lead to 4-1.

Then, just 1:28 later, it would be Thunderbirds defenceman and Toronto, Ontario native James Kearney getting his 2nd goal of the season from Brodie McConnell-Barker, which cut the Paper Kings lead to 4-2 heading into the third.

With the Thunderbirds still down by two goals late in the third period, it would then be rookie defenceman Brodie McConnell-Barker getting his 9th goal of the season from Kaden Dundas and Justin Mauro at 15:28, which cut the Paper Kings lead to 4-3.

The Paper Kings would then get an empty net goal with just eighteen seconds to go in the third period, courtesy of Spencer Horgan’s 12th goal of the season.

Horgan also added an assist for a two-point night.

“I felt we played well at times tonight, but we definitely gave their (Paper Kings) best players a lot of opportunities to score tonight and they capitalized,” said Soo Thunderbirds forward Justin Mauro, who is the older brother of Espanola Paper Kings forward Devin Mauro. “After the TV time-out during the second period, things then started to click for us and we had a couple good offensive shifts in a row and put the Paper Kings back on their heels, but we just couldn’t crawl all the way back from the hole we dug ourselves in.”

“Tonight’s game didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” added Soo Thunderbirds defenceman Kaden Dundas. “We gave Espanola everything they got and they capitalized on their chances.”

The Thunderbirds, who outshot the Paper Kings 36-27 overall on Saturday night, fired 17 shots on net in the third period.

“When we started playing our game and moving pucks quick within our system, we got more chances and carried the play,” Dundas said. “Once we established more offensive zone pressure, we wore the Paper Kings down and scored some goals.

On Saturday night, Paper Kings all-time goals leader Lucas Signoretti also had a big night offensively as he scored a pair of goals, including one on the power play, while setting up another.

“Lucas is a great player,” said Paper Kings forward Devin Mauro. “He plays the game so well and you know what you’re going to get from him every shift he’s on the ice. He’s a fun teammate to have on your team and he’s also a very good leader.”

Assistant captain Jonathan Lush had the other goal for the Paper Kings on a Saturday night while Brinn Burleigh, Blake Peters-Davey and Coulson Bell all chipped in with one assist each.

Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller gave up 4 goals on 26 shots in the loss while Paper Kings netminder Jake Marois made 33 saves for the victory.

The Paper Kings, who scored five times against the Soo Thunderbirds on Saturday night, have now given themselves a total of 90 goals this season on home ice, which has now set the new franchise record for most goals scored by the team on home ice during a regular season.

Espanola’s previous record for most goals scored on home ice during a regular season, was 89, which was back in 2019-2020, when they were called the Espanola Express.

“It’s always nice to score a lot of goals at home in front of your fans, because it’s the fans who support us very well,” said Paper Kings forward Devin Mauro. “With our new franchise record, I’m confident in our team’s success.”

The Thunderbirds will now be back in action on Friday, March 3, when they will visit Blind River to take on the Blind River Beavers, beginning at 7:00 p.m. from the Blind River Community Centre.

“For our next game, we have to have a better start to finish game and clean up the turnovers,” Dundas said.

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