By Matt Stefano
After taking the first two games of the NOJHL final series on Essar Centre ice and outscoring the Gold Miners 6-1, the Soo Thunderbirds were in Kirkland Lake for game three on Thursday night and were looking to take a 3-0 series lead in the NOJHL finals.
The T-Birds, who trailed 1-0 early in the second, came back with five unanswered goals as they went on to a 5-1 victory over Kirkland Lake at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex and are now only one victory away from being crowned NOJHL champions for the second straight year.
“I thought we got off to a slow start, but we kept with it and finished the game strong,” said T-Birds forward Matt Caruso, who was named first star of the game with a goal and an assist. “We got bodies in front of their goalie and put everything towards the net and fortunate for us they went in.”
With the teams skating scoreless after twenty minutes of play, it would be the Gold Miners scoring first just over a minute into the second.
Just 1:11 into the middle frame, it would be Marc Antoine Arseneau getting his fourth of the postseason from Kameron Shearer to put the home side up 1-0.
The T-Birds would tie things up at one courtesy of Adam McPhail’s third of the playoffs at 11:54 from Drake Pilon and Aiden Salerno.
Then, with just 2:08 to go in the second, it would be T-Birds forward Jaren Bellini getting his fourth of the postseason from Matt Caruso and Caleb Boman to put the Soo in front 2-1 after two.
With just over a minute into the final frame, the T-Birds then got some insurance.
At the 1:02 mark of the third, it would be T-Birds forward Matt Caruso getting his team leading eighth goal of the postseason and twenty second career playoff tally from Caleb Boman and Matt Busby to put the Soo up 3-1.
Caruso’s twenty second career playoff goal, also put him second on the T-Birds all time playoff goals list as he passed Jerry Petingalo (2008-2011), who had twenty one.
“It’s great to be noticed for that,” continued Caruso. “But overall it’s a team game and our team is rolling.”
Overage forward Matt Mitchell’s fifth goal of the postseason at 13:32 from Ryan Mulligan and Mark Tassone gave the T-Birds a three goal lead.
Then, just twenty one ticks later, it would be defenceman Caleb Boman getting his fourth of the postseason from the Pilon brothers (Drake & Darian) to make it a four goal game, as the T-Birds went on to beat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 5-1 in game three of the NOJHL finals and have now taken a 3-0 series lead heading into game four on Friday night and will look to capture their second consecutive Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy.
“We have to keep in mind not to get to high on tonight’s win,” concluded Caruso. “We know we’ll see their best game of the year tomorrow and we have to get ready mentally and physically by eating right and keeping focussed.”
Joe Marcoullier gave up five goals on twenty seven shots for the Gold Miners loss while T-Birds goalie Connor Ryckman made nineteen saves for the win.
Game four of the NOJHL finals is Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 p.m. in Kirkland Lake at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)