By Matt Stefano
Santa was a big help!
On Friday night, Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria scored two goals, including one on the power play as the Thunderbirds went on to defeat the Elliot Lake Red Wings by a score of 3-2 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
The victory also put the Thunderbirds back on the winning track after they suffered a 6-2 loss to the Elliot Lake Red Wings back on Sunday afternoon in Elliot Lake
“Tonight’s game was an up and down game and obviously our lineup looked a lot different tonight than it did back on Sunday afternoon in Elliot Lake,” said Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “The boys played hard for sixty minutes right from the goaltender out and we definitely deserved the win tonight.”
Santa Maria, who had two goals for the Thunderbirds on Friday night, also gave himself his third career two-goal game.
“Santa was on, especially early,” Jarrett said. “He had a couple really nice goals and he excels when he’s playing at both ends of the ice. The way he played all over the ice tonight was great and that’s what we look for in our captain every single night.”
With the Thunderbirds up 1-0 early in the first period, Santa Maria scored his first goal of the night and 7th goal of the season on the power play at the 3:48 mark of the first, which gave the Soo a 2-0 lead.
“On the first goal, I just came in from the side on the power play and found a spot over the goalie’s shoulder and put it in,” Santa Maria said.
Santa Maria would then get his second goal of the night and 8th goal of the season at the 5:13 mark of the second period, which at that time gave the Thunderbirds a 3– 1 lead.
Santa Maria, who scored his 8th goal of the season, also set his career high for most goals in a single season.
“On my second goal of the night, I made a move, went down and tucked another one over the goalie’s shoulder and it just felt good to get the two goals and two points tonight,” Santa Maria said.
On Friday night, the Thunderbirds also got a goal from second-year forward Tyson Doucette, who returned to the Thunderbirds lineup after missing five games due to an injury.
Doucette opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season at the 1:30 mark of the first period, which gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.
“I thought Doucer looked good tonight,” Jarrett said. “It’s going to take some time for him to get back to his game, but he looked really good in practice all week. Doucer is a great two-way centre-man and he shows it night in and night out, so it was nice to have him back in the lineup tonight.”
On Friday night, the Thunderbirds also got a muti-point performance from their rookie blueliner Creo Solomon, who got on the scoresheet with two assists.
Solomon, who had two assists, set up both goals that were scored by Santa Maria.
“Creo is a great defenceman,” Santa Maria said. “He always battles and he always competes. He’s always looking to get better and it’s great to have a guy like that on your team.”
Samuel Lake and Kaden Dundas also got on the scoresheet for the Soo, with one assist each.
Thunderbirds rookie netminder Noah Metiver turned aside 14 shots for his 8th victory of the season.
Metiver, who recorded his 8th win of the season, also moved into sole possession of first among NOJHL rookie netminders in wins.
“Elliot Lake had some really good chances on Tives (Metiver) in tonight’s game and he made some really big saves,” Jarrett said. “Tives was his old self. He battles and keeps us in games and that’s what I like about him the most. He fights for every puck and that’s very important in a goaltender.”
On Friday night, Red Wings goaltender and Soo Greyhounds prospect Colton Donaldson also had a strong performance for his own club as he made 45 saves in the loss.
Donaldson, who is in his rookie season with the Red Wings, has still yet to get a victory in his NOJHL career.
“Colton just battles,” said Red Wings head coach Tanner Bowditch. “He’s a great kid and he’ll never say boo. He’s just solid for us and he’s our go-to-guy whenever we need to give our starter a break.”
With the Red Wings trailing 3–1 late in the third period, the Wings then got a goal from forward Jovani Moses with just 10.1 second to go in the game, which cut the Thunderbirds lead 3-2.
“I thought we took a while to get things started tonight,” Bowditch said. “Anytime you fall behind by two goals, it’s going to be hard to battle back, but I thought our guys showed some character. We have a group of guys who aren’t satisfied with a one-goal loss, so we know we’re better than how we’ve been playing and we know we can push any team in our division.”
Forward Kaden Laverdiere had the other goal for the Red Wings on Friday night as he scored his 4th goal of the season on the power play at the 6:28 mark of the first period, which at that time cut the Thunderbirds lead to 2-1.
Since coming over to the Red Wings in a trade from the Blind River Beavers back on October 16, Laverdiere has scored 4 times for the Red Wings, and all four of his goals this season have come against the Soo Thunderbirds.
“Kaden just battles,” Bowditch said. “He’s a guy I know who’s going to give us a solid effort every night. He came over from Blind River looking for a new chance and a bit more ice time and we gave it to him, so he’s just running with it.”
The Thunderbirds will now be back in action on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., when they visit Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to take on the Soo Eagles.
Saturday night’s game will also be the Thunderbirds first visit to the Pullar Stadium since February 29, 2020.
“Tomorrow’s trip across the border will definitely be interesting,” Jarrett said. “From my understanding, it’s a great atmosphere over there at the Pullar, so we’re going to rest up a bit tonight and get ready to take on the Eagles tomorrow.”
(Photo of Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria credit to Bob Davies)