By Matt Stefano
With 10 regulars out of the lineup and 7 players called up from the Great North Midget League’s Soo Thunderbirds Midget AAA team, the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s regular season champions Soo Thunderbirds were in Elliot Lake on Saturday night for their final game of the regular season.
The T-Birds, who entered Saturday’s game with a record of 47-5-1-0, were just one win away from tying their very own team and league record for most wins in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season, dating back to 2013-2014, when they finished off with 48 wins.
But after blanking the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-0 on John Rhodes ice back on Wednesday and finishing off with a perfect home record, the Wildcats took the rematch game at Centennial Arena and defeated the Soo Thunderbirds 9-2.
Wildcats forward Liam Blais led the way offensively with three goals and three helpers while Ty Hannaford also had a multi goal game with a pair of power play goals along with recording an assist. Artur Terchiyev and Nathan Campbell had a goal and two assists each while Matt Colunga also had a three point night with a trio of helpers. Connor Rider had a goal (power play) and an assist while Chad Lopez also got on the scoresheet with one tally. Ismael Dumerlus, Spencer Allen, Cole Hepler, Troy Button, Aaron Mackay and Spencer MacLean all recorded an assist each.
T-Birds forward Matt Caruso had a pair of goals including one on the power play to give him 30 on the season. Caruso also became the 12th player this season to hit the 30 goal plateau in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Mike Caruso, Jaren Bellini and Nathan Hebert all recorded an assist each for the T-Birds.
T-Birds goaltender Brandon Gordon gave up 4 goals on 18 shots before being replaced by Garrett Boyonoski, who was one of 7 players called up for Saturday’s game and surrendered 5 goals on 28 shots the rest of the way.
Wildcats goaltender Aaron Mackay gave up 2 goals on 34 shots for the win.
With the loss, the Soo Thunderbirds will now end their 2015-2016 regular season record at 47-6-1-0, good for 95 points.
The 47 wins and 95 points for the T-Birds will now sit second most in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League record book, despite the fact that the T-Birds still own the league’s best record for most points with 99 and most wins with 48 back in 2013-2014.
The T-Birds, who scored 245 goals this season and allowing only 93 against, have now set a new team record for the least goals against in one season, dating back to 2000-2001, where they only allowed 95.
With the T-Birds automatically in the West Division semi finals, they will play game 1 on March 19th at the Essar Centre against the winner of the quarterfinals series between the Soo Eagles and Espanola Express.
The Soo Thunderbirds will be holding their team awards dinner on March 14th at 6:00 p.m. from Quattro Hotel. Tickets are $40.00 per person and can be bought at Savings World located on 25 Trunk Road.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)