By Matt Stefano
After playing six straight games on the road, the Soo Thunderbirds returned to the Essar Centre for the first time since October 17th and were up against the Timmins Rock, who entered Sunday afternoon’s game as the 19th best team in Canada.
The T-Birds, who dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan back on Friday night, were looking to get back on the winning track without having Jake Behse, Zach Senecal, Matt Caruso, Greg Smith, Mark Tassone and Wyatt Villalta, who were all getting ready to take part in the Eastern Canada All-Star Jr. A Challenge from November 14-16 in Cornwall, Ontario.
The T-Birds, who have not lost on home ice since April 11th, 2015, when they fell 6-2 to the Cochrane Crunch in game one of the NOJHL finals, had their long home winning streak snapped as they fell 5-4 to the Timmins Rock on Sunday afternoon.
“The players we were missing are a huge part of our team,” said T-Birds rookie forward Gage Stephney. “We knew we were going to have to work hard and I think that’s what we did because we didn’t play bad at all.”
Gage Stephney and Ryan Waterhouse had a pair of goals each for the T-Birds in Sunday afternoon’s loss.
“I honestly don’t have any words for what was going on in the third,” said Stephney, whose team got outshot 12-4 in the final frame along with being outscored 2-0. “We should’ve won for sure. We outshot them through the first two periods. Me and Waters (Waterhouse) had two goals each, but everyone else was working hard and my goals were great plays by my teammates, but we just couldn’t hold them off.”
Stephney, who had two goals on Sunday including a shorthanded one, now leads all T-Bird rookies in goals (9) and points (17).
“It’s an honour,” said Stephney when he was asked how it feels to be the top scoring rookie on the T-Birds thus far. “It feels nice to contribute out there, but for our next game on Wednesday we know we can work with every team when we are short staffed. I’d rather just win and I want to win every game. Elliot Lake is good too and we just have to be ready for them on Wednesday and work like we did this afternoon and we’ll be alright.”
Rookie forward Keegan Stevenson had a multi point afternoon for the T-Birds with two assists while Mike Winn, Keenan Eddy, Kaidan McDonald and Noah Solinger all recorded an assist each.
Rock forward Cory Sprague was named first star of the game with a two goal performance while Tyler Romain also had a multi point afternoon with a goal and an assist.
Bain Cunningham and Grant McClellan (power play) had a goal each for the Rock.
James Watier and Jordan Rendle had two assists each while single assists went to Nick Hautanen, Spencer Segui and Wayne Mathieu.
Rock netminder Matt Nixon made 26 stops for the win while T-Birds goaltender Brandon Gordon gave up 5 goals on 27 shots for just his 11th career NOJHL loss.
The T-Birds will now face the Elliot Lake Wildcats on Wednesday, November 16th at 7:00 p.m. at the Essar Centre.
Wednesday night’s game will mark game two of Fan Appreciation Month sponsored by The Tech.
Students & Seniors: $5.00
Kids 5 years old and younger get in for free.
T-Bird season ticket holders will receive a free program and all Sault Minor and Sault Peewee hockey players get in for free if they wear their team jersey.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)