Oldham scores in overtime, Thunderbirds now going to game 7 of the NOJHL final

By Matt Stefano

It’s official.

There will be a game 7 of the NOJHL final in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario this Thursday night!

And it’s all thanks to an overtime goal by Russell Oldham, which came just over six minutes into the overtime period on Tuesday night in game 6.

On Tuesday night, Russell Oldham’s 3rd goal of the playoffs at the 6:11 mark of the first overtime period gave the Soo Thunderbirds a 4-3 overtime victory against the Hearst Lumberjacks in game 6 of the NOJHL final, in front of 777 fans at Claude Larose Arena in Hearst, Ontario.

Oldham, who scored the overtime goal on Tuesday night in game 6, also gave himself his first career overtime tally.

“It’s any player’s dream to score in big moments like that, and it really felt great to get my chance,” Oldham said. “As soon as I scored that overtime goal, all that really went through our heads was we have one game to go.”

After skating scoreless through twenty minutes of play, the Thunderbirds then opened the scoring just 1:59 into the second, courtesy of Kyle Trottier’s first career playoff goal from Brock Santa Maria, which made the score 1-0 for the Thunderbirds.

Just 3:04 after Trottier’s tally, it would then be Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria getting his 4th goal of the playoffs from Dharan Cap, which gave the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead after two periods of play.

The Thunderbirds, who took a 2-0 lead after two periods of play, also got outshot by the Lumberjacks 10-4 during the middle frame.

“The second goal was crucial for us,” Oldham said. “We were able to convert on our chances and get a lead, which is always important in an elimination game.”

After leading the Lumberjacks 2-0 after forty minutes of play, the Lumberjacks then got a pair of goals in the opening four minutes of the third from rookie forward Robbie Rutledge, which quickly turned a 2-0 Soo Thunderbirds lead into a 2-2 tie.

Rutledge, who entered Tuesday night’s game with 2 goals on the postseason, scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs just 1:34 into the third period from Dylan Ford and Zachary Demers, which cut the Thunderbirds lead to 2-1.

The native of Severn, Ontario would then get his second goal of the game and 4th goal of the playoffs just 2:14 later, unassisted, which tied things up at two.

“I thought we got a little too comfortable at the start of the third period,” Oldham said. “If you get too comfortable against a good team, they will make you pay. But after that we were able to tighten up defensible all over the ice, and that helped up us get the victory.”

With things tied up at two with under 13 minutes to go in the third period, it would then be Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Zane Burleigh getting his first career playoff goal at 7:24, which put the Thunderbirds ahead by a score of 3-2.

Burleigh, who scored his first career playoff tally on Tuesday night in game 6 of the NOJHL final, also found the back of the net for the first time since November 7, 2021.

After Burleigh’s goal, the Lumberjacks then gave their fans some hope at the 12:38 mark of the third period, as forward Tyren Grimsdale would notch his 3rd goal of the playoffs from Zachary Demers and Robbie Rutledge, which tied the game up at three.

Demers, who drew an assist on Grimsdale’s tally, also gave himself his 14th assist of the postseason, which tied the team record for most assists by a Lumberjacks player during a postseason, joining Bradley Golant (2019).

After going 2-for-8 on the man advantage back on Sunday night’s 3-2 win over the Lumberjacks in game 5 at the John Rhodes, the Thunderbirds then ended up going 0-for-2 on the man advantage on Tuesday night in game 6 in Hearst.

Despite going 0-for-2 on the man advantage on Tuesday night, the Thunderbirds still did a great job on their penalty kill, finishing a perfect 5-for-5.

“Our penalty kill was amazing tonight,” Oldham said. “It’s important for any team to have good special teams in order to win, and keeping the Lumberjacks power play off the board tonight helped up us big time.”

Lumberjacks goaltender Liam Oxner gave up 4 goals on 26 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Noah Metivier made 33 saves for the victory.

With the win, the Thunderbirds have now evened the NOJHL final series at 3-games-apiece, and will now get set for game 7 of the NOJHL final, which will take place on Thursday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

“Getting a good skate in tomorrow (Wednesday) is going to get us ready for game 7 on Thursday,” Oldham said. “We know there is no such thing as an easy game 7 and we are going to do whatever it takes to protect our home.”


On Thursday night, the Soo Thunderbirds will be looking to win their 5th Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in franchise history!

The last time the Soo won the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy, was back on April 22, 2016, when they blanked the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 7-0 in game 4 of the NOJHL final.

Before that, the Thunderbirds were crowned Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy champions in 2015 against Cochrane (4-games-to-1), 2012 against North Bay (4-games-to-1) and 2009, which was also against North Bay (4-games-to-1).


When it comes to a game 7 of an NOJHL final, the Soo Thunderbirds record is 0-4.

And the last time the Thunderbirds were involved in a game 7 of the NOJHL final, was back on April 24, 2019, when they lost to the Hearst Lumberjacks by a score of 6-3 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Thunderbirds, who have never won a game 7 of the NOJHL final, will now be looking to do it for the first time ever this Thursday night in front of the Sault Ste. Marie faithful at the John Rhodes.

(Photo of Soo Thunderbirds forward Russell Oldham credit to Bob Davies)


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