By Matt Stefano
When Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria scores a goal in a playoff game, it usually turns out to be the game-winner.
And on Monday night in game 3, he did it again!
Brock Santa Maria’s power play goal at the 11:16 mark of the second period proved to be the game-winner, as the Soo Thunderbirds went on to defeat the Blind River Beavers by a score of 4-1 in game 3 of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series at the John Rhodes.
Santa Maria, who scored the game-winning goal on Monday night, also added an assist for a two-point night.
“I just found myself by the net and Truchan made a really nice play and found me back door and I put it in. It was an easy goal for me,” said Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria, whose goal put his club up by a score of 2-0 at the 11:16 mark of the second period.
In 27 career playoff games played with the Soo Thunderbirds, Santa Maria now has a total of 7 career postseason goals, with four of those goals being game-winners.
The last time Santa Maria scored a game-winning goal, was back on May 12, 2022, when he scored the cup winning goal in overtime in game 7 of the NOJHL final against the Hearst Lumberjacks.
“I must be on the good side of the hockey gods when it comes to scoring game-winning goals, but we’re not taking anything for granted right now because we’re working hard and we still have a job to do,” Santa Maria said.
During Monday night’s game, the Thunderbirds also got a power play goal from their assistant captain Dharan Cap at the 15:42 mark of the second period, which at that time gave the Soo a 3-0 lead.
The Thunderbirds, who scored two power play goals on Monday night, have now given themselves a total of six power play goals this postseason, and have now moved one power play goal ahead of the Timmins Rock for the league-lead in power play goals among all NOJHL teams this postseason.
“We’ve been working on our power play a lot during practice and we’ve also been watching Blind River’s penalty kill, because we know they’ve got a good penalty kill,” Santa Maria said. “We just need to take what they give to us and keep scoring goals.”
The Thunderbirds took a 1-0 lead after the first period of play, thanks to a goal by Jackson Truchan, which came just 29 seconds into the first period.
Truchan’s goal, also came on the Thunderbirds first shot on net of the game.
“Getting off to a good start in these games is all we’ve been talking about,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “Tonight we set the tone early and got an early goal in the first period, and if you ask any of our guys in the dressing room, they’ll tell you it’s easier to play when you have a 1-0 lead within the first minute. That way we’re not chasing the game and it makes it harder on our opponent to get back in it (The game).”
Truchan, who scored the opening goal of the game, also added two assists for a three-point night.
Dharan Cap and Justin Mauro, who both played on the top line with Truchan, also had multi-point games of their own on Monday night, as they recorded two points each.
Cap finished the night with a power play goal and an assist while Mauro chipped in with two helpers.
“The line of Truchan, Cap and Mauro have been the difference so far in this series,” Jarrett said. “J.T. (Jackson Truchan) has just kinda found another level here in the playoffs, Justin (Mauro) has been playing the best hockey that we’ve seen him play with us, and obviously Capper (Dharan Cap) has just been a beast and he’s been that way since he came over in a trade last season from the Swan Valley Stampeders. I’m happy for those guys because they’re getting rewarded and they’ve stayed disciplined and that’s something that they’ve struggled with all year, so it’s been a really positive start for them here in our playoff run.”
On Monday night, Thunderbirds assistant captain Michael Chaffay also got on the scoresheet with one goal while defenceman Ranon Joseph chipped in with one assist.
Michael Gallagher had the lone goal for the Beavers on the power play at the 19:45 mark of the second period with Matthew Green and Daniel Vasic picking up the assists.
Beavers goaltender Gavin Disano gave up 4 goals on 32 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Landon Miller made 20 saves for the victory.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now taken a three-games-to-none lead against the Beavers in the West Division semifinal series and will now have a chance to eliminate them this Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. at the John Rhodes.
“We need to make sure that we a have good start again on Wednesday night in game 4 and that’s been a main point of this series,” Santa Maria said. “A full sixty minutes is what we’re looking for.”
(Photo of Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria credit to Bob Davies)