By Matt Stefano
A 4-0 loss in game 1, a 4-0 win in game 2.
Those were the results for the Soo Thunderbirds in their first two games of the 2023 NOJHL final.
After getting shutout by the Timmins Rock 4-0 in game 1 of the NOJHL final on Thursday night at McIntyre Arena in Timmins, the Soo Thunderbirds rebounded with a shutout win of their own on Friday night in game 2, as they blanked the Timmins Rock by a score of 4-0 in front of 1510 fans at the same place (McIntyre Arena).
The Thunderbirds, who picked up a shutout win in game 2, have now evened up the the NOJHL final series at one game apiece.
“Tonight was a complete team effort from start to finish,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, whose team led 1-0 through forty minutes of play, before going on to score three more times in the third period.
During Friday night’s game, Thunderbirds forward Ethan Novello led the way offensively with two assists, giving him his first ever multi-point game in the playoffs.
“It felt great to lead the way offensively for my team tonight in game 2, but I also have to give credit to my linemates because we played well together and we brought the energy,” Novello said.
Novello, who had two assists on Friday night, has now given himself five points in twelve games played here in the playoffs.
All five of his points are assists.
“During this playoff season, I’ve been focussing on making my game more simple and it has really helped me contribute and I’m glad I’m helping out my team,” Novello said.
Tyler Boudreau (Game-winner), Brock Santa Maria (Insurance goal), Justin Mauro (Empty net) and Jackson Truchan (Empty net) had the goals for the Thunderbirds on Friday night while Wyatt Marlow, Daniel Beaupre and Youssef Chaouachi all got on the scoresheet with one assist each.
Boudreau’s goal, came at the 2:58 mark of the first period, which gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead heading into the second.
Rock goaltender Patrick Boivin gave up 2 goals on 22 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Landon Miller made 24 saves for his first career playoff shutout.
Miller, who picked up his first career playoff shutout on Friday night in Timmins, also became the first Thunderbird goaltender to record a shutout in a playoff road game since William Anderson did back on April 22, 2019.
“It feels great to get the win tonight and I think the shutout is just the cherry on top,” Miller said.
“Milsy was outstanding tonight and he was definitely our best player on the ice,” added Jarrett.
The Thunderbirds, who have now evened up the NOJHL final series at one game apiece, will now be on John Rhodes ice for game 3 of the final, which will take place on Sunday night at 6:00 p.m.
So far during this playoff season, the Thunderbirds have a home record of two wins and two losses.
“It should be an exciting next couple of nights of hockey at the John Rhodes and we can’t wait to play in front of our fans,” said Jarrett, whose team will play game 3 on Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. followed by game 4 on Monday night at 7:00 p.m.
“We are confident heading home with a split and we are ready to get to work on home soil,” Miller added.
CHITTER TO THE WOLVES
In round three of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection on Friday night, the Sudbury Wolves drafted Soo Thunderbirds affiliate player Hudson Chitaroni in the 3rd round, 48th overall.
Chitaroni, who got drafted by the Wolves in the 3rd round on Friday night, played this past season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he led the Jr. Greyhounds in scoring with 22 goals and 48 points in 28 games.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also played one game with the Soo Thunderbirds as an affiliate player during the 2022-2023 regular season.
“Hudson is an incredibly driven young man who is really focused on what he needs to do to continue his development,” said Soo Thunderbirds general manager Jamie Henderson, who coached Hudson Chiratoni on the Soo Jr. Greyhounds this past season. “We are really happy for Hudson and his family.”
Another interesting fact about Hudson Chitaroni getting drafted by the Sudbury Wolves, is that Hudson Chitroni’s father Terry (Chitaroni) was actually a member of the Sudbury Wolves himself from 1988-1992.
RECORD SETTING ASSIST
Following the Rock’s 4-0 win over the Soo Thunderbirds in game 1 of the NOJHL final on Thursday night, Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon was credited with an assist, which gave him his 11th assist of the playoffs.
Pigeon, who recorded his 11th assist of the playoffs on Thursday night in game 1, set the Rock record for most assists by a Rock player in a playoff season, passing Nolan Ring (2023), Harry Clark (2022) and Derek Seguin (2019), who all shared the previous record with 10.
(Photo of Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller credit to Bob Davies)