By Matt Stefano
Sunday afternoon was a battle of the top two teams in the West Division as the first place Soo Thunderbirds welcomed the second place Rayside Balfour Canadians to the Essar Centre.
After dropping a 3-1 decision in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on Saturday night against the Eagles, the T-Birds rebounded with a 6-5 win against the Rayside Balfour Canadians on Sunday afternoon.
“Rayside is at the top of the standings too with us, so it was an important game for us to win. It wasn’t the best game we played, but we pulled out the win and that’s important,” said T-Birds forward Zach Senecal.
Senecal, who found the back of the net twice on Sunday afternoon, including once on the power play, has now hit the 20 goal plateau for the first time in his NOJHL career.
The second year forward scored ten times as a rookie during the 2015-2016 regular season.
“I think I play with some good linemates and the teammates have been great, so that’s helped with my production this year. I hope to build on the 20 goals as well,” continued the second year forward.
Forwards Nick Smith, Noah Solinger, Austin Kozluk and Keegan Stevenson all chipped in with a goal and an assist each for the T-Birds while defensemen Jake Behse and Brendan Jay chipped in with two assists each.
Keenan Eddy, Mike Winn, Wyatt Villalta and Ryan Waterhouse all had an assist each for the T-Birds.
Kyle Liinamaa had two power play goals and an assist for the Canadians while defenseman Brett Whitehead also had a three point afternoon with a trio of assists.
Kaleb Peldjak found the back of the net twice for Rayside while Tristan Simm chipped in with two helpers.
Owen Sound Attack prospect Cayse Ton had a goal and an assist for the Canadians while Karson Massey, Matt Neault and Danny Lepage all chipped in with single assists.
Canadians goalie Owen Johansson, who surrendered 3 goals on 20 shots, was replaced in net by Cameron Lamour, who then gave up 3 goals on 16 shots the rest of the way.
Soo Greyhounds prospect Dougie Newhouse, who got his first start in net for the year 2017, made 22 stops for the T-Birds victory.
The T-Birds will now get set to face another couple of tough tests at home, beginning with Blind River on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m., followed by Powassan on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. Powassan, who is also the top team in the NOJHL, headed into Sunday on a 25 game winning streak. Both games will take place at the Essar Centre.
“The next two games are big. Blind River always gives us a tough time, so that will be a big game. Powassan is first in the league and they’re on a big winning streak. We lost when we were up there last time and we’re going to try to beat them here,” concluded Senecal.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)