Ouellet off to a good start so far in postseason

By Matt Stefano

Since signing with the Soo Thunderbirds during the 2021 offseason, rookie forward Kelsey Ouellet has turned out to be one of the top forwards on the Soo Thunderbirds this season.

And last night in his first career playoff game played, Ouellet played a big role in helping the Thunderbirds to a victory.

Last night, the 18-year-old forward scored the game-winning goal and set up another, helping the Thunderbirds to a 3-2 win over the Blind River Beavers in game 1 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series.

Ouellet, who scored the game-winning goal and set up another, was also named first star of the game in the Thunderbirds opening game of the postseason.

“Playing in my first career NOJHL playoff game last night was so exciting,” Ouellet said. “The atmosphere was awesome and I just had so much adrenaline to get that first home win of round 1.”

With the Thunderbirds leading 2-1 with just under eight minutes to go in the second period, Ouellet scored his first goal of the postseason at the 12:30 mark of the middle frame, which at that time gave the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead.

The Thunderbirds rookie forward also set up Michael Chaffay’s buzzer-beater tally at the 19:59 mark of the opening period, helping the Soo go up by a score of 2-0.

“It felt great to be able to capitalize on my chances and being able to create plays,” said the Longlac, Ontario product. “The chemistry of my line has made it really easy to find each other and know where the other one is going to be.”

After spending the 2020-2021 season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Kapuskasing Flyers, in what was a different season due to COVID, Ouellet then ended up signing with the Soo Thunderbirds for the 2021-2022 season back on June 4, 2021.

This season with the Thunderbirds, Ouellet finished fourth in team scoring with 41 points, including 16 goals and 25 assists in 48 games played.

“Playing in Kapuskasing with the Flyers has helped me grow as a player and as a person,” Ouellet said. “Making the jump from AAA to Junior A was nerve racking at first, but not long after I got to the Soo. Once I arrived in the Soo I really felt comfortable, which was surprising because we didn’t get to play much hockey last season in Kapuskasing due to COVID.”

During the regular season with the Thunderbirds, Ouellet also played mostly on a line with rookie forward Cooper Foster and second-year forward Michael Chaffay.

“Being on a line with Chaffay and Foster for most of the year has been very productive,” Ouellet said. “The way we play together makes us a dominate line.”

Ouellet, who finished the regular season with 41 points in 48 games played, was also the only player on the Soo Thunderbirds roster to not miss a single game during the regular season.

“Playing in all 48 regular season games this year was something I was hoping to do,” Ouellet said. “I just love the game of hockey and that makes it easier to play in as many games as I can. The practices and off-ice workouts have also helped me a lot with staying healthy and being able to be ready for every game and every situation.”

After putting up two points (1g 1a) in last night’s game 1 victory over the Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes, Ouellet is now entering tomorrow night’s game (Game 2) sitting tied with Michael Chaffay for the team-lead in postseason points.

The Thunderbirds, who are up 1-0 in the best-of-seven semifinal series against the Beavers, will be on John Rhodes ice tomorrow night for game 2 of the series, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

“For tomorrow night’s game we will be trying to do everything we did in the first game and even more,” Ouellet said. “We have to continue to focus on one game at a time and stick to our game plan. We are a very fast team and I think we can play even faster than how we played in game 1. Every game is a different story and we gotta give it our all now matter what.”

(Photo of Thunderbirds forward Kelsey Ouellet credit to Bob Davies)

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