By Matt Stefano
After opening up the year 2021 with a 5-2 victory over the Blind River Beavers back on Wednesday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre, the Soo Thunderbirds were back in action for a rematch against the Beavers just forty eight hours later on Friday night at the exact same place.
On Friday night, the Thunderbirds were also up against Beavers forward Jacob Kelly, who came in as the top scorer in the NOJHL with nineteen points.
The Thunderbirds, who trailed the Beavers 4-2 late in second period, battled back to pick up their sixth win of the season on Friday night at the John Rhodes as they defeated the Blind River Beavers by a score of 6-5 in a shootout.
“It felt great to get the comeback victory,” said Thunderbirds forward Brock Santa Maria. “We were down 4-2 and the boys battled back. In between periods we had a good talk and we just had to get back on track and get pucks deep. We had a couple good scoring chances and made sure we buried them.”
Thunderbirds forward Brock Santa Maria finished off the night with a pair goals, giving him his first career two-goal game.
The eighteen-year old forward opened the scoring at the 5:59 mark of the first period, before scoring his second goal of the night at the 12:05 mark of the third period, which at that time put the Thunderbirds up 5-4.
“It feels amazing and hopefully I can get a bunch more. Now I want to keep moving forward to helping this team get more wins,” said Santa Maria.
Santa Maria, who only scored 7 times in 50 games last season, has now given himself 4 goals in 8 games played here in 2020-2021.
“I feel like I took a big step over the summer and now I’m looking to keep going and I want to keep getting better as the year goes on,” said Santa Maria.
With the Thunderbirds trailing 4-3 at the start of the third period, it would be Thunderbirds leading goal-scorer Cooper Smyl getting an unassisted tally at the 5:43 mark of the third, which at that time tied the game up at four.
Smyl then ended up scoring the shootout winner for the Thunderbirds in the first round of the shootout.
“Smyl is a tremendous player. He gets a point or two every night and he always contributes,” said Santa Maria.
Caleb Wood and Cameron Dutkiewicz (power play) had the other goals for the Soo while defenceman Dylan Parsons and forward Noah Boman recorded two assists each.
Jacob Doucette, Kaden Dundas and Russell Oldham also got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds with one assist each.
Beavers forward and NOJHL’s top scorer Jacob Kelly led the way offensively for his club with a goal and two helpers while forward Matt Cato scored twice, including once on the power play.
Cato’s power play goal came at the 17:08 mark of the third period, which at that time tied the game up at five.
Beavers third-year forward Justin Mauro had a shorthanded goal and set up another while defenceman and London Knights 2020 fifth round pick Mason Chitaroni set up two goals, giving him his first two NOJHL points.
Blind River rookie forward Dre Leismeister had the other goal for the Beavers, which turned out to be his first NOJHL tally while Ethan Pegg, Caleb Minns, Nick Jameus, Sam Davies and Lucas Adams all got on the scoresheet with one assist each.
Beavers netminder and Sooite Gavin Disano made 37 saves in the loss while Thunderbirds goaltender Scott Young made 30 stops for the victory.
Young also made saves on all three Beaver shooters in the shootout, including Nick Jameus, Jacob Kelly and Matt Cato.
The Thunderbirds will now travel to Blind River on Sunday for their third straight meeting against the Beavers, which will take place at the Blind River Community Centre, beginning at 2:00 p.m.
“We’re going to go home now and get some rest. We play at 2:00 p.m. in Blind River on Sunday, so we’ll get something to eat down there and then go to the rink and battle,” said Santa Maria.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)