By Matt Stefano
On Friday night, the Soo Thunderbirds welcomed their neighbours, the Soo Eagles to the Essar Centre for the first time since sweeping them in four straight in the NOJHL West Division semifinal last year.
Friday night also marked the 100th career NOJHL game for T-Birds third year forward Matt Caruso.
The game was scoreless just until under halfway into the first period when Matt Caruso’s second goal of the season on the power play at 11:35 from Matt Busby and Jake Behse gave the T-Birds a 1-0 lead.
Caruso’s second goal of the season was also his 100th career point.
Second year forward Zach Senecal would make it a 2-0 game with his fourth from Aaron Wesley-Chisel and goaltender Brandon Gordon at 15:42.
Second year forward Mark Tassone would then get his fourth of the season at 16:17 from Noah Solinger and Jake Behse to put the T-Birds up by three.
Then, just 39 seconds later, William Casey would put the Soo Eagles on board with his second of the season from Chris Lutz and Tait Aptakin.
The T-Birds would take a 3-1 lead after one period.
In the middle frame, the T-Birds scored another three times, getting goals from Keenan Eddy, Zach Senecal (power play), and Ryan Mulligan (power play). Caruso would draw a pair of assists in the second period while Matt Busby, Alec Allen, and Gage Stephney all set up a goal each.
Chris Lutz first of the season on the power play from William Casey and Matt Meininger just 37 seconds into the third cut the T-Birds lead to 6-2.
Zach Senecal would get his first career regular season hat trick at 10:06 with a shorthanded goal as the T-Birds went on to beat the Soo Eagles 7-2.
“The team has a lot of chemistry already,” said Senecal. “Three games and we already have a lot of goals we’ve put up. We’ve gotten really good defensively as well too, so I think it’s really good for the first three games that we played.”
Senecal, who scored his first career regular season hat trick, now has six goals on the season, after putting up just ten as a rookie in the 2015-2016 regular season.
His first career hat trick came on May 4th, 2016 in a 6-5 win over the Fort Frances Lakers at the Dudley Hewitt Cup Tournament.
“I would say it’s more ice time,” continued Senecal. “But I just feel that I have more confidence now in my second year and my teammates have been great and it’s been a great start.”
Senecal completed the hat trick on a shorthanded breakaway, unassisted at 10:06 into the third, which was also his first career regular season shorthanded goal.
“I think the Eagles player who was going in kind of coughed up the puck a bit and the defence was split up. So I decided to go in between them and I was thinking the five hole the whole way down and that’s where I shot and it went in,” continued Senecal.
The T-Birds will play their first road game of the season on Saturday when they travel to Sault, Michigan to take on the Soo Eagles at the Pullar Stadium at 7:00 p.m.
Then on Sunday afternoon, they will be in Espanola to take on the Express at 2:00 p.m. at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.
“It’s a good test for us to start,” concluded Senecal. “Especially with the Eagles over there because they get a lot of fans in a small rink. Espanola is a good team too and it should be good.”
Eagles goalie Jack Deines gave up four goals on thirteen shots before being replaced by Sean Angle, who then allowed three goals on sixteen shots the rest of the way.
T-Birds goalie Brandon Gordon made twenty four stops for the win.
Photo by Jim Egan