By Matt Stefano
It’s a battle of the top two teams in the NOJHL’s West Division tonight as your first place Soo Thunderbirds will take on the second place Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
The Thunderbirds, who are entering tonight’s game sitting in first place in the West Division with 49 points, sit 7 points ahead of the second place Eagles, but the Eagles still hold 4 games in hand.
Tonight’s game will also be the eighth meeting of the season between these two clubs.
HEAD TO HEAD
In seven meetings against the Eagles this season, the Thunderbirds have a record of 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 overtime loss and 2 shootout losses.
The Thunderbirds have also outscored the Eagles 21-20 overall.
IN THEIR LAST MEETING
The last time the Thunderbirds and the Eagles met was back on December 17, 2021, when the Thunderbirds defeated the Eagles by a score of 5-2 at the Pullar Stadium in Soo Michigan.
That night, forward Tyson Doucette scored a shorthanded goal (game-winner) and set up another, and was named first star of the game, while goaltender Noah Metivier turned aside 28 shots for his 11th victory of the season.
Doucette, who was named first star of the game that night (December 17, 2021), was then traded to the OJHL’s Aurora Tigers back on the January 10 trade deadline.
The Thunderbirds, who are entering tonight’s game on a two-game winning streak, are coming off a 7-4 victory against the French River Rapids, in a game that took place back on Saturday, February 12 at the John Rhodes.
That afternoon,Thunderbirds rookie forward Cooper Foster led the way offensively with a goal (game-winner) and two helpers while goaltender Noah Metivier turned aside 15 shots for his 12th win of the season.
The Thunderbirds, who scored 7 times against the Rapids last Saturday, also tied their season high for most goals scored in a single game.
The Eagles, who are entering tonight’s game sitting in second place in the NOJHL’s West Division, are coming off a 6-5 shootout loss to the Blind River Beavers, in a game that took place at the Pullar Stadium last Saturday in Soo Michigan.
That night, the game was decided in the fourth round of the shootout, thanks to a goal by Beavers forward Jesse Dupuis.
Chase Tallaire, Seth Ferguson, Marc LaFrance and Trevor Davis were the four shooters for the Eagles in the shootout, but all four of them failed to find the back of the net.
The Eagles, who dropped a 6-5 shootout loss to the Beavers last Saturday, also suffered their first shootout loss of the season.
GIBSON AT HIS FINEST
Last Saturday’s game against the French River Rapids was a historic day for Soo Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Andrew Gibson.
That afternoon, Gibson scored his 15th goal of the season on the power play at the 15:50 mark of the first period, which set the new Soo Thunderbirds record for most goals scored by a defenceman in a regular season, passing Caleb Boman (2015-2016), who held the previous record with 14.
The Windsor, Ontario native added an assist on Saturday afternoon, good for a two-point game and 33 points on the season.
Gibson, who is entering tonight’s game with 33 points, is now just one point away from tying the franchise record for most points by a rookie defenceman in a regular season.
That record is currently held by Barnabas Birkeland (2002-2003).
Sticking with the blueline, another defenceman who had a historic day last Saturday (this time across the border), was Soo Eagles defenceman Sam Holy.
Despite dropping a 6-5 decision in a shootout to the Blind River Beavers last Saturday in Soo Michigan, Holy found the back of the net three times, including twice on the power play, giving him his first career hat trick.
Holy, who recorded a hat trick for the Eagles last Saturday, also became the first Eagle defenceman to record a hat trick in a regular season game since Derek Diaz did back on December 7, 2011.
FORTY FOR FOSTER
Looking at forwards now, Thunderbirds forward Cooper Foster is continuing to put up some big numbers here in his rookie season.
Foster, who recorded 3 points (1g 2a) in last Saturday’s 7-4 victory over French River, has now given himself a team-leading 40 points on the season.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native also became just the second rookie in the NOJHL to hit the 40-point plateau this season, joining Hearst Lumberjacks rookie forward Robbie Rutledge.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)