T-Birds battle back, but fall to Cubs in a shootout

By Matt Stefano

After trailing the Greater Sudbury Cubs 2-0 with just under two minutes to go in the third period, the Soo Thunderbirds ended up scoring back-to-back power play goals just 1:09 apart, but ended up dropping a 3-2 decision in a shootout to the Cubs at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Thunderbirds, who battled back to pick up a point on Saturday night, now have a total of 60 points on the season, and still remain in second place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.

“It was a hard fought game by both teams tonight,” said Soo Thunderbirds leading scorer Dharan Cap, whose team took on No. 7 ranked team in the nation on Saturday night. “We started to pick it up as the game went on and started to put on more pressure near the end. There were also a lot of great scoring chances by both teams tonight too.”

On Saturday night, the Thunderbirds also took on their former goaltender Noah Metiver, who returned to the Soo for the first time since being traded by the Thunderbirds during the 2022 offseason.

Metiver, who was traded from the Thunderbirds to the Lindsay Muskies back on June 14, then ended up being traded from the Muskies to the Greater Sudbury Cubs in the middle of November.

“It felt great coming back to the Soo tonight,” said Metiver, who faced his former team for the first time in his junior hockey career. “I’ve been waiting for this game since I got traded and I haven’t felt more excited to play a hockey game.”

The last time Metiver played on John Rhodes Community Centre ice, was back on May 12, 2022, when he helped the Thunderbirds win the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in game 7 of the NOJHL final against the Hearst Lumberjacks.

Following that game, Metiver was also named the 2022 NOJHL Playoff MVP.

“I felt very comfortable playing at the John Rhodes tonight once again,” Metiver said. “I’m so used to the John Rhodes ice and the crease, and it felt the same as last year when I was playing with the Thunderbirds.”

Metiver, who is now a member of the Greater Sudbury Cubs, also spoke about how happy he is to be playing close to home.

“I’m loving it so far in Sudbury,” Metiver said. “Things weren’t really working out for me in Lindsay, but now that I’m close to home, I can play in front of my family, which is amazing.”

With the Thunderbirds on a two-man advantage with late in the third period, it would be Thunderbirds leading scorer Dharan Cap getting his 21st goal of the season at the 18:22 mark of the third from Ranon Joseph and Jackson Truchan, which at that time cut the Cubs lead to 2-1.

Cap’s goal, also spoiled Noah Metiver’s shutout bid on his 19th birthday.

“I wasn’t disappointed with not getting a shutout,” said Metiver, who turned 19-years-old on Saturday. “I’m just glad we got the two points and I was also happy to play in front of my family.”

With the Thunderbirds still on the power play after breaking the shutout, it would then be forward Michael Chaffay getting his 10th goal of the season from Wyatt Marlow and Justin Mauro at the 19:31 mark of the third, which tied things up at two.

“We had a bunch of scoring chances throughout tonight’s game and it was just a matter of time before we found the back of the net,” said Cap, who had a power play goal for the Thunderbirds late in the game.

With neither team scoring in overtime, the teams were then headed to shootout, which lasted up to five rounds.

And in the end, it was Pierson Sobush’s goal in the fifth round shootout that won it for the Cubs.

“Our team played a solid game all around tonight,” said Sobush, who was the only player out of both teams (Thunderbirds and Cubs) to score in the shootout on Saturday night. “Tonight we really focused on the defensive side of the puck as the T-Birds have a fairly deep lineup. We battled some adversity with the penalties late in the third period, but stuck with it, and it was awesome to score the game winner for the team, especially for our goalie Noah Metiver after he played unreal in front of his hometown.”

Sobush, who scored the shootout winner, also drew an assist for the Cubs, and was named first star of the game.

Matthew Mazzotta and Noah Kohan had a goal each for the Cubs on Saturday night while Graeme Siren and Nolan Newton also got on the scoresheet with one assist each.

Mazzotta’s goal, came at the 3:28 mark of the first period, which put the Cubs up by a score of 1-0 through twenty minutes of play.

Kohan’s goal, then made it a 2-0 Cubs lead with just 1:35 left to go in the middle frame.

Cubs goaltender and former Soo Thunderbird Noah Metiver made 31 saves to pick up a victory on his 19th birthday, while Thunderbirds netminder Landon Miller, who hasn’t seen action with the Thunderbirds since January 10, made 17 stops in the loss.

The Thunderbirds, who remain in second place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings with 60 points, will now be back in action on Friday, February 3, when they will take on the Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes.

The Beavers, who are currently in third place in the NOJHL’s West Division with 58 points, are just two points behind the Thunderbirds for second place in the West, and also still hold a game in hand.

(Photo credit to Bob Davies)

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