By Matt Stefano
After dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the Espanola Express back on Sunday afternoon in Espanola, the Soo Thunderbirds were back on home ice on Friday night as they took on the Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
Friday night’s game also marked the final home game on the Thunderbirds 2019-2020 regular season schedule.
The Thunderbirds, who entered Friday night’s game with 29 wins, picked up their 30th win of the season as they doubled up the Blind River Beavers by a score of 4-2.
“I thought we played really well tonight and I think we set a pretty big statement going into the playoffs,” said Thunderbirds rookie forward Tyler Savard.
The Thunderbirds, who will finish in third place in the West Division, will meet the second place Beavers in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We showed these guys that we can definitely play with them and beat them,” said Savard. “We may be the underdog going into the series, but I think we can get it done.”
Savard led the way offensively for the Thunderbirds on Friday night, setting up three goals.
“It felt good tonight,” said Savard. “I’ve been struggling lately and it was definitely nice to get a few points on the board tonight, but all in all it was a team effort tonight and I wouldn’t have done it without my linemates.”
Savard, who is in his rookie season with the Thunderbirds, was also selected in the eleventh round by the Soo Greyhounds in the 2019 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
“I love it here in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Savard. “I’ve been welcomed by everyone, especially on the Greyhounds staff and I’ve had a chance to practice with them a couple times and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to play for the Greyhounds next season.”
Tyler is also the son of former NHLer and former Oshawa Generals star forward Marc Savard.
Marc, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins back in 2011, now serves as an assistant coach with the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
The 42 year old, who spent four seasons with the Oshawa Generals from 1993-1997, also won the CHL Top Scorer Award in 1995 and helped the Generals capture the J. Ross Robertson Cup in 1997.
“My father has definitely given me advice after being drafted to the Ontario Hockey League,” said Savard. “It was a little different back then when he played, but he’s taught me a lot of stuff and we always worked on my skills during the winter on the rink. It’s definitely helped with a father who has a lot of experience and he’s always been there for me through tough times and good times.”
Thunderbirds top scorer Jake Kovacs had a power play goal and an assist while Mackenzie Walkington, Kurtis Rogers (game winner) and Cam Findlay (empty net) all had one goal each.
Colton Hayes, Cooper Smyl and Tristan Cicchello set up a goal each for the Soo.
Defenceman Bryan Clahassey led the way offensively for the Beavers with a goal and an assist while Lucas Adams also got on the scoresheet with a power play goal.
Caleb Serre and A.J. Campbell set up a goal each for the Beavers.
Beavers goaltender Dominic Boily gave up 3 goals on 34 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Dakota Meyer made 37 saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds will now conclude their 2019-2020 regular season on Saturday night, when they visit Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for a 7:00 p.m. game against the Soo Eagles at the Pullar Stadium.
“We’re just going to try to get a big win in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on Saturday night to make ourselves feel good heading into the playoffs,” concluded Savard.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)