Stephney scores twice as Thunderbirds beat Wildcats in overtime

By Matt Stefano

After defeating the Blind River Beavers 6-4 at the John Rhodes Community Centre on Friday night and picking up their 20th victory of the season, the Soo Thunderbirds had a road game twenty four hours later as they were in Elliot Lake for their fourth meeting of the season against the Wildcats.

Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Thunderbirds also had a perfect 3-0 record against the Wildcats this season.

The Thunderbirds scored six goals for the second straight game on Saturday night, as they defeated the Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-5 in overtime at Centennial Arena.

Assistant captain Nick Smith, who was coming off a four point night against Blind River on Friday, opened the scoring with just three seconds to go in the first, scoring his sixteenth goal of the season on the power play, putting the Soo up 1-0 after twenty minutes of play.

Steven Bellini and Lucas Theriault would draw the assists on Smith’s tally.

The Thunderbirds would then get an early goal at the start of the second period, as forward Noah Boman would get his eleventh goal of the season just forty three seconds into the middle frame, putting the Soo up by two.

Kaidan McDonald and Lucas Theriault would draw the assists on Boman’s tally.

Thunderbirds forward and NOJHL’s leading scorer Lucas Theriault would then put the Thunderbirds up 3-0, scoring his twentieth goal of the season at 3:44 from Noah Boman.

Theriault also became the first player in the NOJHL to hit the twenty goal plateau this season.

Wildcats goaltender Justin Vertesi, who gave up three goals on nineteen shots, would then be replaced in net by Dominic Boily.

The Thunderbirds would then take a 4-0 lead at the 4:07 mark of the second, courtesy of Gage Stephney’s fifth goal of the season from Max Techel and Nick Smith.

Techel’s assist on Stephney’s tally, extended his point streak to two games.

The Wildcats would then make things a little more interesting as they ended up scoring three goals of their own.

Eric Conely’s ninth goal of the season from Connor Taylor and Brett Lannin at 5:03, cut the Thunderbirds lead to 4-1.

The Wildcats would then cut the Thunderbirds lead to 4-2 just fifteen seconds later, courtesy of Jayden Parnell’s third goal of the season from Tanner Hicks and Connor Taylor.

A power play goal by Tanner Hicks with 9:24 to go in the second, would then cut the Thunderbirds lead to 4-3.

Connor Taylor and Mark Perone would draw the assists on what would be Hicks fourth goal of the season.

Thunderbirds rookie forward Avery Rebek would then give his club a two-goal lead, scoring his seventh goal of the season at 17:06 from Steven Bellini and Jonathan Mackin.

Rebek also extended his point streak to three games.

With the Thunderbirds up 5-3 heading into the third period, the Wildcats would then score a pair of goals in the final twenty minutes of play.

Josh Bifolchi’s twelfth goal of the season from Noah Minns and Caleb Minns at 6:46, cut the Thunderbirds lead to 5-4.

The Wildcats would then tie the game up at five with just 1:29 left to go in the third, courtesy of Noah Minns eighth goal of the season from Brett Lannin and Mark Perone.

With the game tied 5-5 after sixty minutes of play, the Thunderbirds were headed into overtime for the sixth time this season.

Thunderbirds forward Gage Stephney was the hero in overtime on Saturday night, as he scored his second goal of the night and sixth goal of the season from Nick Smith with forty four seconds to go in the extra frame, giving the Soo a 6-5 win over the Elliot Lake Wildcats.

Goaltender William Anderson made twenty nine saves for the Thunderbirds victory.

Wildcats goaltender Dominic Boily, who replaced Justin Vertesi in net after his team fell behind 3-0, gave up two goals on twenty five shots the rest of the way.

The Thunderbirds, who have now won seven in a row, will be right back in action on Sunday afternoon in Espanola for a matchup against the Express.

Puck drop is 2:00 p.m. at Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.

(Photo of Gage Stephney credit to Rod Aubertin/

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