By Matt Stefano On Saturday night, the two time defending NOJHL champion Soo Thunderbirds officially kicked off their 2016-2017 season at the John Rhodes Community Centre against the Rayside Balfour Canadians, who were coming off a 5-2 win over the Soo Eagles on Friday. The T-Birds, who entered Saturday night ranked No. 3 in the CJHL top 20 preseason rankings, opened up the 2016-2017 season with a 6-2 win over Rayside Balfour at the John Rhodes. Kaidan McDonald led the way offensively for the T-Birds with three assists while Turner Santin found the back of the net twice. "I thought the boys battled hard," said Santin. "The systems were working and we had a good game." Santin, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, came over in a trade this August from the MJHL's Portage Terriers, who won their second consecutive Turnbull Cup. "We have a pretty good group of guys in the room along with good coaches and I like it a lot," continued Santin. "We won back to back championship titles in Portage so we'll see how this year goes and hope we can do it again." Santin, who scored two goals on the night was also named first star of the game. "It was a good pass by Matty (Caruso) on the second one there, and the first I just kind of got a lucky bounce and put it in," Santin concluded. Mark Tassone had a multi point game for the T-Birds with a goal and a helper while single goals went to Zach Senecal, Matt Busby (power play), and Keegan Stevenson. T-Birds third year forward Matt Caruso set up a pair of goals while single assists went to Ryan Mulligan, Nick Smith, and Noah Solinger. Matt Neault (power play) and Brad Johnson had the goals for Rayside while Andre Frapprier, Karson Massey, Cayse Ton, and Jorge Perez all recorded an assist each. Canadians goalie Owen Johansson gave up six goals on thirty one shots while Brandon Gordon made twenty eight saves for the T-Birds win. T-Birds return to action on Sunday, September 11th at 7:00 p.m. against the Elliot Lake Wildcats at the Essar Centre.