T-Birds advance to finals

By Matt Stefano

After falling to the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-3 in overtime at Centennial Arena on Friday night and having their series lead cut to 3-1, the Soo Thunderbirds were hoping to wrap up the West Division final series on Saturday night in game five at the Essar Centre.

The T-Birds would open the scoring at 7:22 of the first as captain Brett Jeffries would notch his fourth of the playoffs from Drake Pilon to put the Soo up 1-0.

Matt Caruso’s sixth from Matt Pinder and Jaren Bellini at 12:59 made it a 2-0 lead for the Soo.

Then, at the 15:55 mark of the first period, it would be defenceman Caleb Boman scoring his first career playoff goal on the power play from Matt Caruso to give the Soo a 3-0 lead after one.

With the T-Birds leading 3-0 heading into the second, things began to turn around quickly for Elliot Lake.

Just 1:03 apart, Elliot Lake would cut the T-Birds lead to 3-2 thanks to a pair of power play goals.

At the 17:26 mark of the second, Artur Terchiyev’s fourth of the postseason on the power play from Cole Hepler made it a 3-1 game, before Shane Woolsey’s second of the postseason on the power play from Chad Lopez and Alec MacKenzie at 18:29 cut the T-Birds lead to 3-2 after the second.

The T-Birds, who led by one goal heading into the final frame, broke out with four unanswered goals in the third.

Just twenty three ticks into the third, Oshawa Generals prospect Zach Senecal got his second of the playoffs from Caleb Boman and Matt Busby to put the Soo up 4-2.

With the T-Birds grabbing an important two goal lead early in the third, it would then be overage forward Matt Pinder getting his fourth of the postseason on the power play at 10:33 from Caleb Boman and Matt Caruso to put the Soo up by three.

Overage forward Joey Miller’s fifth of the postseason at 13:57 from Zach Senecal and Matt Busby made it a 6-2 lead for the Soo, before Adam McPhail’s second of the playoffs from Drake Pilon and Brandon Grandinetti at 15:40 gave the Soo a five goal lead as they went on to beat the Elliot Lake Wildcats 7-2 on Saturday night at the Essar Centre and have now advanced to the NOJHL finals for a fifth straight year.

“It was a big win for us after coming off last night’s loss,” said T-Birds overage forward Matt Pinder. “We knew what we had to do to win this game and we came prepared to do it.”

The T-Birds, who defeated the Wildcats 7-2 in game five on Saturday night, gave up a 3-0 lead in Elliot Lake on Friday night in game four, before losing 4-3 in overtime.

“We just tried to forget about Friday’s game,” continued Pinder. “Saturday was a new day, so we just came out and got the job done.”

The T-Birds, who have now punched their ticket into the NOJHL finals for a fifth straight season, will meet the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, who are also the this year’s Dudley Hewitt Cup hosts.

“We are going to bring the same work ethic in the finals and it will be a good series,” concluded Pinder.

Wildcats goalie Al Rogers gave up seven goals on forty one shots while Connor Ryckman for the T-Birds, made twenty five saves for the win.

With Kirkland Lake hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup, the T-Birds have automatically got a berth into that tournament as well.

(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)

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