By Matt Stefano
For the first time in this playoff season, the Soo Thunderbirds did not get a win in game 5.
And now because of it, they will be fighting for their season in game 6 of the NOJHL final this Sunday night at the John Rhodes.
On Wednesday night, the Soo Thunderbirds gave up three goals in the first period, including a pair of goals on the power play, as they ended up falling to the Timmins Rock by a score of 3-2 in game 5 of the NOJHL final at McIntyre Arena in Timmins.
With the loss, the Thunderbirds now trail the NOJHL final series three-games-to-two, with the series shifting back to the Soo on Sunday.
After falling behind to the Rock 1-0 early in the first period, the Thunderbirds then ran into some penalty trouble late in the first, which led to back-to-back power play tallies by the Rock just 1:47 apart.
“We had way too many lost puck battles early in the game, and then we got into penalty trouble at the end of the first period,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett.
With the Rock on a power play late in the first period, it would be forward Justin Charrette getting his 3rd goal of the playoffs from Ethan Pool and Brandon Rossetti at 18:09, which gave the Rock a 2-0 lead.
The Rock would then get another power play goal at the 19:56 mark of the first, courtesy of Brandon Rossetti’s 3rd goal of the playoffs Felix Cadieux-Fredette and Ethan Pool, which put the Rock up 3-0 heading into the second.
During the first period, the T-Birds got outshot by the Rock 14-4.
“We didn’t get to our game quick enough tonight and they (The Rock) were able to capitalize on the chances they had early,” said Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria.
After surrendering back-to-back power play tallies late in the opening period, the T-Birds would then respond with a power play goal of their own late in the second, as forward Dharan Cap would notch his 10th goal of the playoffs from Brock Santa Maria and Jackson Truchan at 16:33, which cut the Rock’s lead to 3-1 heading into the second.
Cap, who scored his 10th goal of the playoffs, also became the first player in the NOJHL to hit the 10-goal plateau this playoff season.
With T-Birds goaltender Landon Miller on the bench for an extra attacker late in the third period, it would then be T-Birds captain Brock Santa Maria getting his 5th goal of the playoffs from Youssef Chaouachi and Justin Mauro at 17:41, which cut the Rock’s lead to 3-2.
Despite failing to tie the game, the T-Birds outshot the Rock 9-5 in the third period.
In the final forty minutes of play, the T-Birds outshot the Rock 17-9 overall.
“I liked our response in the final forty minutes of the game, and during that time we had a lot of guys step up and bring the energy that we needed,” Jarrett said.
“I thought we came out a lot harder in the final two periods,” Santa Maria added. “In the final two periods, we were looking to generate chances instead of just sitting back and waiting for opportunities to happen.”
Harry Clark had the other goal for the Rock on Wednesday night, which came just 50 seconds into the game from Nicholas Frederick and Kenyon Nyman.
During Wednesday night’s game, Thunderbirds goaltender and Soo Greyhounds 2022 second round pick Landon Miller made 20 saves in the loss.
Miller, who was playing in his 15th game of the playoffs on Wednesday night, also tied the franchise record for most games played by a goaltender during a playoff season, joining Colin Ahern (2019) and Shane Bellini (2003).
“I thought Milsy (Landon Miller) was solid and he gave us a chance to win tonight,” Jarrett said.
On Wednesday night, Rock goaltender Patrick Boivin was named third star of the game, as he made 19 saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds will now be back in action for game 6 of the NOJHL final this Sunday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
“When we play game 6 in the Soo on Sunday night, we are going to need the same effort that we saw in the last forty minutes of tonight’s game,” Jarrett said. “But if we want to win, we need the effort from everybody on our team.”
“I expect us to come out in game 6 with a chip on our shoulder,” Santa Maria added. “We need to put together a full sixty minutes of hockey and play the same we did in the last forty minutes of tonight’s game if we want to be successful. Timmins is a good hockey team and if we don’t come to play the right away, we will end up with the same result.”
67’S CHOSE SMITTY
Soo Thunderbirds affiliate player Jacob Smith was the first affiliate player taken during Wednesday’s OHL Under-18 Priority Selection, as he was taken in the 1st round, 20th overall by the Ottawa 67’s.
Smitty, who was taken in the 1st round by the 67’s, played this past season with the Great North Under-18 Hockey League’s Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he recorded 28 points in 24 games.
In twelve games played (Counting regular season and playoffs) this season with the Soo Thunderbirds, the 2006-birth-year forward has 1 goal and 2 assists.
ERIE GETS FLETCHY
In the second round of Wednesday’s OHL Under-18 Priority Selection, the Erie Otters used their second pick by drafting Soo Thunderbirds affiliate player Maverick Fletcher.
Fletcher, who was taken by the Otters in the 2nd round, 22 overall, played this past season with the Great North Under-18 Soo Jr. Greyhounds, where he had a 1.60 goals against average and 4 shutouts through 27 games played.
The 2006-birth-year netminder also played one game in net with the Soo Thunderbirds during the regular season back on February 4, where he made 25 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes.