Ouellet and Chaffay combine for four points as Thunderbirds take game 1 over Beavers

By Matt Stefano

Game 1 is in the books!

Kelsey Ouellet and Michael Chaffay combined for four points on Thursday night as the Soo Thunderbirds defeated the Blind River Beavers by a score of 3-2 in game 1 of the West Division semifinal series at the John Rhodes.

The Thunderbirds, who defeated the Beavers 3-2 on Thursday night, also outshot the Beavers 27-5 through the first forty minutes of play.

“We carried the play through the first two periods and I think the shots will indicate that,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, who picked up his first career NOJHL playoff win behind the bench. “The Beavers then gave us a great push in the third period and they’re a hard team to play against. They don’t quit and it just seems like every guy is going 100%.”

Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Zeppa, who got his first career playoff start in net on Thursday night, made 11 saves, including 7 in the third period, good for his first career playoff victory.

Zeppa, who picked up his first career playoff win on Thursday night, also concluded the regular 2021-2022 regular season on a 10-game winning streak.

“Zepps will tell you that only seeing those five shots he faced through the first forty minutes of play is tough mentally for a goalie,” Jarrett said. “In the third period he was solid though, and he really helped us when we took our foot off the pedal a little bit.”

During Thursday night’s game, the Thunderbirds also did a great job on their penalty kill as they killed off all five penalties that were handed out to them.

The Thunderbirds, who went a perfect 5-for-5 on their penalty kill on Thursday night, also finished the regular season with the best penalty kill (88.1%) in the entire NOJHL.

“I thought our boys did a really good job of playing within our structure and keeping them (Beavers) to the outside,” Jarrett said. “Our penalty kill was solid all year long during the regular season and that’s something we take pride in and we’ll keep going throughout the playoffs.”

The Thunderbirds opened the scoring at the 10:49 mark of the first period, courtesy of Youssef Chaouachi’s first goal of the postseason from Zane Burleigh and Colby Arbour, which put the Soo up 1-0.

Then, with just one second to go in the first period, it would then be Thunderbirds alternate captain Michael Chaffay getting his first goal of the postseason from Kelsey Ouellet, which put the Thunderbirds up 2-0 after twenty minutes of play.

The Thunderbirds, who led 2-0 after the first period, also outshot the Beavers 13-3 in the opening frame.

With the Thunderbirds leading the Beavers 2-0 almost midway through the second period, it would then be the Beavers getting on the board at 8:16 courtesy of Dylan Hendrick’s first goal of the postseason from Dakota Seaman, which cut the Thunderbirds lead to 2-1.

Then, just 4:14 after Hendrick’s goal, it would then be Thunderbirds rookie forward Kelsey Ouellet getting his first goal of the postseason and second point of the night from Andrew Gibson and Michael Chaffay, which made the score 3-1 for the Thunderbirds.

Chaffay, who drew an assist on Ouellet’s goal, also gave himself his second point of the evening.

“Ouellet and Chaffay did a really good job all night just carrying the play and making sure they were winning their shifts,” Jarrett said. “They’re two players that we rely on, especially offensively. I also wasn’t surprised that they got the job done here tonight and I’m happy for them.”

Ryan Doucette had the other goal for the Beavers at the 2:19 mark of the third period from Alexander Tingay and Caleb Minns, which at that time cut the Thunderbirds lead to 3-2.

Minns, who drew an assist on Doucette’s tally, also gave himself his league-leading 5th point of the postseason.

Beavers goaltender Patrick Boivin gave up 3 goals on 34 shots in the loss.

Game 2 of the West Division semifinal series between the Beavers and the Thunderbirds will take place on Saturday, April 9 at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

(Photo credit to Bob Davies)




WordPress Image Lightbox Plugin