By Matt Stefano
After opening up the month of February and the year 2021 with back to back victories over the Blind River Beavers last week on Wednesday and Friday in the Soo, the Soo Thunderbirds were back in action on Sunday afternoon as they made the trip to Blind River for their third straight meeting against the Beavers.
February has also been quite the month for Thunderbirds leading goal-scorer Cooper Smyl.
After scoring a goal, plus the shootout winner in Friday night’s 6-5 shootout win against the Blind River Beavers in the Soo, Cooper Smyl scored three times, including once a penalty shot on Sunday afternoon in Blind River, helping the Soo to a 7-2 victory over the Beavers at the Blind River Community Centre.
Smyl, who had three goals on Sunday afternoon, also gave himself his first NOJHL hat trick.
The Beavers opened up the scoring at the 6:28 mark of the first period, courtesy of Justin Mauro’s 3rd goal of the season from newly acquired forward Thomas Michaud and Lucas Adams.
Michaud, who was playing in his first game with the Beavers since coming over in a trade from Leamington on February 16, also gave himself his first point in a Beavers uniform.
After falling behind 1-0 at the 6:28 mark of the first period, the Thunderbirds then ended up scoring four goals in six minutes and seven seconds.
With Beavers forward Meguire Naughton sitting in the box for goaltender interference, it would be Thunderbirds forward Cooper Smyl scoring his 7th goal of the season on the power play from Brock Santa Maria and Dylan Parsons at the 12:04 mark of the first period, tying the game up at one.
Smyl’s goal on the man advantage, also gave him his team-leading fourth power play goal of the season.
Just 1:56 after Smyl’s power play tally, it would then be Thunderbirds forward Parker Morgan getting his 2nd goal of the season from Ty Zachary and Tyson Doucette, giving the Soo a 2-1 lead.
The Thunderbirds would then take a 3-1 lead at the 17:08 mark of the first period, courtesy of Cooper Smyl’s second goal of the game, which came on a penalty shot.
Then, with just 1:49 left to go in the opening period, it would be Thunderbirds defenceman Cameron Dutkiewicz getting his 4th goal of the season from Connor Toms, giving the Soo a 4-1 lead after twenty minutes of play.
Dutkiewicz, who scored his 4th goal of the season, also extended his goal-streak to two games.
The Thunderbirds would then make it a 5-1 lead just 4:37 into the second period, courtesy of rookie defenceman Connor Toms 3rd goal of the season from Russell Oldham.
Then, with just 3:31 left to go in the middle frame, it would be Beavers newly acquired forward Matt Cato getting his 3rd goal of his NOJHL career from Blake McNally and Nick Jameus, cutting the Thunderbirds lead to 5-2 after two periods of play.
The Soo would then make it a 6-2 lead at the 8:06 mark of the third period, courtesy of rookie forward Ty Zachary’s 3rd goal of the season from Russell Oldham and Ethan Novello.
Zachary, who scored his 3rd goal of the season, also gave himself his second point of the afternoon, which turned out to be his first career multi-point game.
Thunderbirds second-year forward Cooper Smyl would then get his third goal of the game and 9th tally of the season at the 12:13 mark of the third period, making the score 7-2 for the Soo.
Beavers netminder Wyatt Courchaine gave up 7 goals on 43 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja made 23 saves for the victory.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now improved their record to 7 wins, 3 losses and 1 shootout loss, good for 15 points.
They have also moved two points ahead of the Espanola Express for first place in the NOJHL’s West Division.
The Thunderbirds will now be back in action for their fourth straight meeting against the Blind River Beavers on Tuesday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
(Photo of Thunderbirds forward Cooper Smyl credit to a Bob Davies)