By Matt Stefano
For a team that does not have home ice advantage this year in the playoffs, the Soo Thunderbirds are sure making the most of their playoff road games.
And thanks to another road victory, the Soo Thunderbirds are now going back to the NOJHL final!
On Thursday night, the Soo Thunderbirds improved their playoff road record to 6 wins and 0 losses, as they hammered the Greater Sudbury Cubs by a score of 7-3 in game 5 of the NOJHL West Division final series at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now eliminated the Cubs four-games-to-one in the NOJHL West Division final, and will now move on to the NOJHL final for the second straight year.
“Tonight we did a good job of getting off to a good start and we kept the pedal down,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett.
“It feels amazing to be heading back to the NOJHL final,” added Soo Thunderbirds defenceman Kolby Fellinger. “Tonight we came together and we knew what we had to do to get the job done.”
The Thunderbirds, who improved their playoff road record to 6-0, also became the first team in the NOJHL to have a 6-0 record on the road during a playoff season since the Powassan Voodoos did back in 2017.
In 2017, the Voodoos also went on to win their first and only Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in team history.
“Before every road game, we have talked about getting into our game right away and not letting it just come down to us,” Jarrett said. “The boys have done a great job executing that mindset though the first two rounds.”
On Thursday night, Thunderbirds defenceman Kolby Fellinger scored his first career playoff goal at the 12:46 mark of the second period, which turned out to the the game-winner.
Fellinger, who scored the game-winning goal on Thursday night in game 5, also witnessed his younger brother Austin score the game-winning in the Thunderbirds 4-3 overtime victory against the Cubs back on Tuesday night in game 4.
“It felt amazing to get the game-winning goal tonight in game 5,” Fellinger said. “B.M.B. (Brodie McConnell-Barker) made a great pass to me and I put it on net and it tipped off a Sudbury player and went five-hole on Noah Metiver.”
Since returning to the Thunderbirds lineup after missing three months due to an injury, Fellinger has recorded 1 goal in 3 games played this playoff season.
“We missed Kolby the entire second half of the season,” Jarrett said. “He is a great veteran presence for us on D and it was nice to see him get the game-winner tonight.”
On Thursday night, Justin Mauro and Brodie McConnell-Barker both led the way offensively for the Thunderbirds as they recorded three assists each while Wyatt Marlow scored twice.
Forwards Daniel Beaupre and Dharan Cap had a goal and an assist each for the Thunderbirds on Thursday night while Jacob Smith and Kaden Dundas (Power play) also got on the scoresheet with a goal each.
The goal by Smith, was also his first career NOJHL tally.
Youssef Chaouachi, Callum McAuley, Michael Chaffay and Anton Petrovskiy all also got on the scoresheet for the Thunderbirds with one assist each.
Samuel Assinewai, Nolan Newton and Billy Biedermann had the goals for the Cubs on Thursday night while Devin Shoreman and Pierson Sobush both set up a goal each.
Cubs goaltender Noah Metiver, who got the start in net on Thursday night in game 5, gave up 4 goals on 18 shots before being replaced in net by Noah Beaulne, who then gave up 3 goals on 10 shots the rest of the way.
Thunderbirds goaltender and Soo Greyhounds 2022 second round pick Landon Miller made 21 saves for the victory.
The Thunderbirds, who are the No. 3 seeded team in the NOJHL’s West Division, will now take on the No. 1 seeded team in the league, the Timmins Rock in the NOJHL final, which is expected to begin next Thursday night in Timmins.
The Thunderbirds are also entering this year’s NOJHL final as the defending Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy champs.
“The Rock are a good team and we are the underdogs, but we are going to watch a lot of video and learn the way they play,” Fellinger said. “We are gonna come out fast and hard and hope the bounces come our way.”