By Matt Stefano
After picking up back to back victories in a home and home series against the Greater Sudbury Cubs during the week, the Soo Thunderbirds returned to the John Rhodes Community Centre on Saturday night as they took on the Espanola Express for the first time this season.
The Thunderbirds, who entered Saturday night’s game on a two-game winning streak, won their third straight game as they defeated the Express by a score of 5-0.
“It was a great team game tonight,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “There were a lot of things that we’ve been talking about and preaching for the last three weeks and now we’re starting to see them shift after shift which is great. A couple games ago we’ve seen little flashes, but now the guys are sticking to our plan and sticking to our systems.”
On Saturday night, Thunderbirds rookie netminder Noah Metivier turned aside all 32 shots he faced to record his first NOJHL win and shutout.
“Metivier played a great game tonight. He was solid in net for us and at the end the boys buckled down and made sure he got that donut,” Jarrett said.
Metivier, who got his first NOJHL shutout, became the first Thunderbird rookie netminder to record a shutout in a regular season game since Sam Evola did back on January 31, 2020.
“It feels amazing to record my first shutout in the NOJHL,” Metivier said. “This wasn’t just my shutout however, my team outshot Espo (Espanola) and overall played the better game. My mind was in the game and I couldn’t have prepared more for that moment. I hope to keep playing with this same intensity and win some more games with the boys this year.”
On Saturday night, rookie forward Kelsey Ouellet led the way offensively for the Thunderbirds with two goals and an assist.
Ouellet, who found the of the net twice, including once on the power play, also gave himself his first two NOJHL goals.
“Kelsey has done everything we’ve asked for,” Jarrett said. “He plays a hard 60 minutes and it was great to see him finally get rewarded for it.”
On Saturday night, the Thunderbirds also got a multi-goal game from rookie forward and Ottawa 67’s prospect Cooper Foster.
Foster, who scored twice, including once on the power play, gave himself his first career two-goal game.
“Coop’s gotten better every game for sure,” Jarrett said. “Obviously being at an OHL camp, he learned how to play at a faster pace and they also helped out with his strength and physicality. But being in the NOJHL is another adjustment, and last year he was playing in the Under-18 league. The pace in the NOJHL is quicker than the Under-18 league. It’s also a tougher league and we saw it with Espanola tonight. They (Espanola) like to throw their body around which is great for our guys and for Cooper it’s just about him playing his game no matter where he’s playing or what position he is. Cooper’s done a great job, and for him being a young guy coming in and being able to step right in and contribute just goes to show you how good of a hockey player he really is.”
Rookie forward Youssef Chaouachi also got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds with his first NOJHL tally while twenty-year-old forward Cole Delarosbil recorded his first point in a Thunderbird uniform, picking up one assist.
Blueliners Kyle Trottier and Creo Solomon had two assists each for the Thunderbirds while forwards Tyson Doucette, Michael Chaffay and Brock Santa Maria all set up a goal each.
Express goaltender Reid Gates gave up 5 goals on 45 shots in the loss.
The Thunderbirds will now be in action on Sunday afternoon, when they visit Blind River for a matinee game against the Blind River Beavers.
Puck drop is set for 2:00 p.m. at the Blind River Community Centre.
(Photo of Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Metivier credit to Bob Davies)