By Matt Stefano
Sunday afternoon marked a battle for first in the NOJHL as the Soo Thunderbirds took on the Cochrane Crunch at the Essar Centre. Heading into the contest, both teams had 10-1 records with the Crunch being the only team to beat the T-Birds this season.
Specialty teams clicked for the T-Birds going 2 for 4 on the powerplay and 6 for 7 on the penalty kill as the Soo defeated Cochrane 7-1 to move into first overall in the NOJHL standings.
Brett Jeffries was named first star of the game with a pair of goals and a helper for the Soo.
“I thought we got off to a slow start, but we came out in the second period and got it going on the powerplay,” said Jeffries. “We just kept rolling after that and didn’t look back.”
Andrew Barbeau had a goal and two assists for the T-Birds while Caleb Boman also had a three point afternoon with a trio of helpers. Rookie forward Mark Tassone notched his first career NOJHL goal and set up another while Jaren Bellini (power play), Darian Pilon (power play) and Matt Mitchell (short handed) had a goal each. Single assists went to Matt Pinder, Ryan Mulligan, Nathan Hebert and Matt Murray.
Tyler Minoletti (power play) had the only goal for the Crunch with assists going to Dustin Cordeiro and Taylor Armbruster.
T-Birds goalie Nathan Warren made 25 saves for the victory.
Brett Young gave up 5 goals on 37 shots and Kurtis David let in 2 goals on 5 shots.
With the win, the T-Birds record improves to 11-1, putting them first in the NOJHL with 22 points.
Newly acquired defenceman Aiden Salerno, who flew into the Soo today, was interviewed during the second intermission.
“Last year I played with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the OJHL,” said Salerno. “We had a good year and made it to the playoffs, lost in the first round, so hopefully we can make a further push this year.”
“I’ve only been here for a few hours but the Soo is beautiful,” continued Salerno. “It’s got a nice rink, the team looks good and it’s good that their winning.”
The overage defenceman also attended New York Islanders development camp this past Summer.
“It was definitely fun playing with a bunch of top level guys and first round draft picks,” Salerno concluded. “It was fun to see where you would match up with those guys and just a good overall experience. I just hope to keep bringing the force with all the defencemen, keep banging the body around and hopefully keep winning games because the guys are doing good so far and we want to keep that up.”
While Thanksgiving dinner will be extra special after moving into first spot in the NOJHL, the T-Birds will now return to action on Wednesday, October 14th in Blind River to take on the Beavers at 7:00 p.m. from the Blind River Community Centre.
On Saturday, former T-Bird and current Colorado College defenceman David Radke notched his first career NCAA goal against UMass.