By Matt Stefano
After defeating the Espanola Express by a score of 3-2 in overtime on Saturday night in Espanola, the Soo Thunderbirds were right back in action on Sunday afternoon at the John Rhodes for a matinee game against the Soo Eagles.
Both the Soo Eagles and the Soo Thunderbirds also entered Sunday afternoon’s game on three-game winning streaks.
Despite outshooting the Eagles 39-18 overall, the Thunderbirds fell to the Eagles by a score of 3-0 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault, Ontario.
It was also the first time the Thunderbirds lost a game by a shutout since December 9, 2018, when they got blanked 1-0 in a shootout to the Rayside Balfour Canadians at Chelmsford Arena.
“Credit to their (Soo Eagles) goalie. He played well, but I thought we had a great first period and we came out really hungry. But this afternoon the Eagles stuck with it and got some timely saves, and sometimes that happens when one goalie gets a lot of action and they other one doesn’t get much,” said Soo Thunderbirds assistant coach and general manager Jamie Henderson.
After a scoreless opening period, the Eagles then built a 2-0 lead in the second, getting goals 49 seconds apart from Chase Tallaire and Nicholas Castillo.
Tallaire opened the scoring at the 6:02 mark of the second period, with his team-leading 10th goal of the season from Marc LaFrance and Jack Morrison, putting his club up 1-0.
Castillo then gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead at the 6:51 mark of the second period, with his 3rd goal of the season from Jacob Swiatek.
Seth Ferguson would then get the third goal for the Eagles at the 5:37 mark of the third period from Trevor Davis and Dylan Bachalo.
Davis, who drew an assist on Ferguson’s tally, gave himself his 8th point of the season, which moved him into sole possession of first among NOJHL rookie blueliners in scoring.
Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Zeppa gave up 3 goals on 18 shots in the loss while Eagles netminder Ryan Gilmore made 39 saves for his 3rd career shutout.
With the loss, the Thunderbirds record has now fallen to 7 wins, 2 losses and 1 shootout loss, and are now tied with the Soo Eagles for first place in the NOJHL’s West Division with 15 points.
“We’ve been getting away with some results where we’ve trailed and came back to win games, but you can’t play like that every night,” Henderson said. “Ultimately we need to get that first goal, but we came out hard this afternoon and deserved a better fate. You need to play a 60-minute game and the Eagles played a hard game as well and they’re going to be a tough team to beat the rest of the year, but they will also be fun to play against.”
The Thunderbirds will now be back in action on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m., when they take on the Elliot Lake Red Wings, who will make their first ever visit to the John Rhodes Community Centre.
SANTA IS CAPTAIN
Prior to Saturday night’s game in Espanola, the Soo Thunderbirds have named third-year forward Brock Santa Maria as their team captain for the 2021-2022 season.
Santa Maria, who turned 19-years-old back on September 27, currently has 6 points in 7 games played so far this year.
“Ultimately the players were part of the decisions for the leadership group, so they felt that Santa Maria was the right guy to represent them,” Henderson said. “It’s a big responsibility to lead in the room and on the ice and I know he’ll do a great job and this will be a great opportunity for him.”
On Saturday, the Soo Thunderbirds have also selected the players who will wear the ‘A’ on their chest for this season.
Second-year forwards Michael Chaffay and Tyson Doucette and second-year defenceman Kaden Dundas will be the Thunderbirds alternate captains for their home games while overage forwards Russell Oldham and Colby Arbour and rookie defenceman Kyle Trottier will serve as the club’s alternate captains on the road.
“We’re a young group, so they’re going to learn what it’s like to be a leader and what it means and hopefully they’ll grow into that,” Henderson said. “They’re all new to this, but I know they’ll do great and it’s still a long season and we still have ways to go.”
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)