By Matt Stefano
Wednesday night marked a battle of the top two teams in the NOJHL’s West Division, as the first place Soo Thunderbirds took on the second place Blind River Beavers in their seventh meeting of the season.
The T-Birds, who headed into Wednesday night’s game ten points ahead of the Beavers, picked up a big two points with a 4-2 victory at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
“It was a really big win and this is our practice facility, but it was our first game here in a while. We came out flying, they got two goals after we were up by three, but the big power play goal by Stevie (Keegan Stevenson) was huge to end their momentum,” said T-Birds forward Sean Emmerson, who had a power play goal and an assist.
For Emmerson, it was also his first taste of playing on John Rhodes ice since being picked up by the Soo Thunderbirds in early January.
“It’s different for sure because it’s cool looking out into the stands and them being full, which is totally different. The Essar Centre has its positive too, but in this rink we got a much needed win,” continued the overage forward.
The T-Birds went two for five on the power play while going a perfect two for two on the penalty kill.
“Specialty teams are very important and we got two power play goals which helped us a lot. We capitalized on our opportunities,” continued
Despite outshooting the Beavers 16-10 after the first period, both teams skated scoreless through twenty minutes of play.
The T-Birds came into the second period getting three straight goals from three straight overage players, beginning with Austin Kozluk’s 19th at 1:30, which gave the Soo an early 1-0 lead.
Sean Emmerson’s 4th on the power play from Zach Senecal and Matt Caruso at 3:26 made it a 2-0 game.
Ryan Waterhouse’s 13th from Sean Emmerson and Keenan Eddy at 11:56 made it a 3-0 T-Birds lead.
Then, with just 2:05 to go in the second, it would be Zak Lambrecht getting his 25th of the season from Jake Papesh and Cole Peck to cut the T-Birds lead to 3-1 after two.
Zak Lambrecht would notch his second of the game and 26th of the season at 4:08 from Mark Khull and Rockford Copiskey to cut the T-Birds lead to one goal.
Rookie forward Keegan Stevenson responded for the T-Birds just 51 seconds later with his 9th on the power play from Ryan Mulligan and Matt Caruso to make it a 4-2 score.
Myles Hektor gave up 4 goals on 39 shots in the Beavers loss while T-Birds goaltender Brandon Gordon made 27 saves for the victory.
With the win, the T-Birds have now picked up five victories in seven meetings against the Blind River Beavers this season, which made them clinch the Provenzano Cup.
The Soo will now travel to Elliot Lake on Friday, February 3rd for their first meeting against the Wildcats after battling to a scoreless tie against them this past Sunday.
“It’s going to be a physical game and they’re a hard working squad. It’s going to be fun, we have to get two points there and we want to win,” concluded Emmerson.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)