McDonald leads T-Birds past Wildcats

By Matt Stefano

Heading into Saturday night’s game on an 11 game unbeaten streak and an overall record of 38-11-1-1, the Soo Thunderbirds were looking to extend their unbeaten streak to 12 games as they took on the Elliot Lake Wildcats at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

Saturday night’s game also marked the 100th game in a Soo Thunderbirds uniform for defenceman Jake Behse.

Kaidan McDonald, who came into Saturday night’s contest with three assists in his past two games, led the way offensively for the T-Birds with three assists on the night as the Soo went on to blank the Wildcats 4-0.

“I thought we played our most complete game,” said McDonald. “We were doing everything right and I think that really helped us and we were successful out there.”

McDonald was also named first star of the game for the second time in his last three games.

“So far in the last few games I’ve been getting a few points and I’m just thinking about keeping it going and moving forward,” continued the T-Birds forward.

T-Birds goaltender Brandon Gordon, who turned aside all 20 shots directed his way, picked up his league leading fifth shutout of the season, which tied the NOJHL record for most shutouts in a single season, joining Frank Novello (2000-2001), Martin Perreault (2003-2004), John Kleinhans (2011-2012) and Garrett Forrest (2015-2016).

Novello and Kleinhans not to mention, are also two former Soo Thunderbird goalies.

“Gordon is awesome,” concluded McDonald. “He really keeps us going when he stops all those pucks.”

One play that you don’t see happen very often in hockey, happened at the 2:50 mark of the first period, when forward Sean Emmerson scored a goal from centre ice, which put the T-Birds up 1-0.

“I had no idea it went in,” said Emmerson. “I just got lucky and their goalie must have bobbled it. I was going for a change and the guys said I scored, so just reacted by saying “Nice”. You have to get lucky and that’s what happened.”

The T-Birds, who improved their record to 39-11-1-1 on the season, also became the first team in NOJHL history to record four straight 80 point seasons.

“It’s awesome,” concluded Emmerson. “I joined late obviously this year, but it’s a top notch organization and that’s what I figured when I joined.”

Gage Stephney scored a pair of goals for the T-Birds while Austin Kozluk, who scored once on the power play, extended his goal scoring streak to six games.

Alec Allen, Nick Smith, Jake Behse, Mike Winn and Ryan Waterhouse all chipped in with one assist each.

Wildcats goaltender Justin Richer gave up 2 goals on 14 shots before being replaced in net by Matt Kostiw, who then gave up 2 goals on 26 shots the rest of the way.

The T-Birds will be back on John Rhodes ice Tuesday, February 28th at 7:00 p.m. against the Rayside Balfour Canadians.

(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)

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