By Matt Stefano
On Saturday night at the Essar Centre, Matt Caruso’s overtime goal at 6:03 into the extra frame gave the Soo Thunderbirds a 3-2 win in game one of the NOJHL’s West Division finals and on Monday night they were looking to take a 2-0 series lead over the Elliot Lake Wildcats in game two at Centennial Arena.
The T-Birds got off to a quick start just 2:58 into the first as rookie forward Drake Pilon notched his second of the playoffs from Mike Caruso and Jake Behse to give the Soo a 1-0 lead.
At the 5:33 mark of the first, the T-Birds would then take an early 2-0 lead as captain Brett Jeffries scored his first goal of the postseason from Matt Busby and Darian Pilon.
Windsor Spitfires 2013 fifteenth round pick Matt Busby would make it 3-0 T-Birds at 11:56 with his first of the postseason from Joey Miller and Mike Caruso.
After surrendering three goals on eleven shots, Wildcats goaltender Aaron Mackay would be replaced Al Rogers at the 11:56 mark of the first.
Then, with just over three minutes to go in the opening period, it would be rookie forward Darian Pilon getting his third of the playoffs from Brett Jeffries and Drake Pilon to give the T-Birds a 4-0 lead after one.
With just over a minute to play in the second period, it would be T-Birds overage defenceman and 2011 Peterborough Petes fourteenth round pick Mike Caruso getting his third goal of the postseason from Caleb Boman and Matt Caruso to put the Soo up by five after two.
No goals were scored in the final frame, but the T-Birds went on to blank the Elliot Lake Wildcats 5-0 at Centennial Arena on Monday night and have now taken a 2-0 series lead in the NOJHL’s West Division finals.
Wildcats goalie Al Rogers, who replaced Aaron Mackay at the 11:56 mark of the first, gave up two goals on thirty one shots the rest of the way.
T-Birds goaltender and Barrie Colts 2012 fourteenth round pick Connor Ryckman stopped all thirty two shots directed his way for his league leading fourth shutout of the postseason.
The Minesing, Onratio native, who recorded his fourth shutout of the postseason on Monday night had also tied the Soo Thunderbirds record for most shutouts in a single playoff season with Adam Hanna (2002), Ryan Dube (2009) and Brian Kment (2015).
The T-Birds, who have now outscored the Wildcats 8-2 through the first two games of this series, will be back on Essar Centre ice on Wednesday, April 6th at 7:00 p.m. for game three of the NOJHL’s West Division finals.
On Monday night in Elliot Lake, overage forward Joey Miller played in his forty ninth career playoff game which set the new T-Birds record for most career postseason games played, passing former T-Birds defenceman Kyle Jones (2002-2005), who held the previous record with forty eight.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)