By Matt Stefano
After defeating the French River Rapids by a score of 2-1 on Friday night and picking up their twenty fourth victory of the season, the Soo Thunderbirds were back in action twenty four hours later as they took on the Rayside Balfour Canadians on Saturday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
Saturday night’s game was also the Thunderbirds final home game for the year 2018.
The Thunderbirds concluded their final homestand of 2018 with a loss on Saturday night, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Rayside Balfour Canadians at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
The Soo went two for nine on the power play while going a perfect four for four on the penalty kill.
“I didn’t think we played bad,” said Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Max Techel. “Just our power play could’ve been better and we had a bunch of mixups, but overall I thought it was a hard fought game.”
Thunderbirds forward and NOJHL’s leading scorer Lucas Theriault scored his twenty second goal of the season on the power play from Steven Bellini at the 16:39 mark of the second period, which tied the game up at one.
“Theriault is working hard all the time,” continued Techel. “He’s always battling and getting gritty and most players usually don’t.”
With the Thunderbirds trailing 3-1 with almost seven and a half minutes into the third period, it would then be Max Techel getting his first NOJHL goal on the power play from Avery Rebek and Tristan Cicchello at 7:23, cutting the Canadians lead to 3-2.
“It felt awesome,” continued Techel. “I remember my brother Nick getting his first NOJHL goal last year and seeing his puck. I almost had my first goal a few games ago, but then I hit one off my teammate’s skate. But since then I’ve been battling back to get my first tally.”
Max is the brother of former Soo Eagles top scorer Nick Techel, who played with the Eagles last season.
“My brother had told me to just work hard and be physical, because a lot of these guys will try to kill you out here,” continued Techel.
Since coming over to the Thunderbirds from the NAHL’s Janesville Jets back in October, the Wasau, Wisconsin native has scored one goal and set up six others in eighteen games played.
“The NOJHL is a much different style from what I’m used to,” continued the eighteen year old. “There’s more hits and fights and it’s a lot more tougher.”
Canadians defenceman Brandon Atkins led the way offensively for his club on Saturday night with two goals and one assist while Kyle Liinamaa also had a big night, scoring a shorthanded goal and setting up another.
Jett Leishman had an empty net goal for the Canadians while Zachary Snow, Brodie Willard, Noah Serre, Matthew Dokis-Dupuis and Alexander Fowke all got on the scoresheet with one assist each.
Thunderbirds rookie netminder Colin Ahern gave up three goals on thirty nine shots in the loss while Canadians goaltender David Bowen made thirty six saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds will now play their final game before the Christmas Break and the New Year next Friday, when they visit Espanola to take on the last place Express.
“We’re not going to over look them,” concluded Techel. “They’re beating a bunch of teams this year and having some upsets, so we just have to be prepared.”
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin/www.ssmphotos.com)