Three-goal second period leads Thunderbirds to game 3 victory over Beavers

By Matt Stefano

The Soo Thunderbirds are now just one win away from moving on to the NOJHL West Division final!

And it’s all thanks to a big second period they had on Sunday afternoon in Blind River.

After falling behind 1-0 after twenty minutes of play, the Soo Thunderbirds came back to score four straight goals, including three in the second period as they went on to double up the Blind River Beavers by a score of 4-2 in game 3 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series on Sunday afternoon at the Blind River Community Centre.

The Thunderbirds, who doubled up the Beavers 4-2, also went up three-games-to-none in the best-of-seven series.

“I thought it was a good game overall,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “In the second period we took control of the pace and that led to some success in the third.”

The Beavers opened the scoring at the 16:45 mark of the first period as Meguire Naughton notched his second goal of the postseason from Heyden Webster and Kyle Caron, making the score 1-0 for the Beavers after twenty minutes of play.

The Thunderbirds, who fell behind 1-0 after the first, also got outshot by the Beavers 12-8 in that opening frame.

“The Beavers came out hard in the first period and they were the more desperate team,” Jarrett said. “But I thought we did a good job of matching their intensity and it was still a pretty even period.”

After falling behind 1-0 after the first period, the Thunderbirds then ended up scoring three goals in a span of 11:11 in the middle frame.

At the 8:08 mark of the second period, it would be Thunderbirds rookie forward Samuel Lake getting his first goal of the postseason from Russell Oldham, which tied the game up at one.

Thunderbirds rookie forward Youssef Chaouachi would then get his second goal of the postseason at the 16:33 mark of the second from Mason Chitaroni and Russell Oldham, which put the Soo up by a score of 2-1.

Oldham, who drew an assist on Chaouachi’s tally, also gave himself his second assist of the afternoon.

“It felt great to chip in with two assists this afternoon and our team played a great game,” said Oldham, who recorded his first two NOJHL postseason points (2 assists). “Anytime you go into a game 3 up two-games-to-none, your opponents are always desperate and I thought we handled that very well this afternoon.”

Just 2:46 after Chaouachi’s tally, it would then be Thunderbirds rookie forward and Ottawa 67’s prospect Cooper Foster getting his first goal of the postseason on the power play from Michael Chaffay and Brock Santa Maria, which made the score 3-1 for the Thunderbirds heading into the third.

With the Thunderbirds leading 3-1 late in the third, the Soo would then get a power play goal from rookie defenceman and Soo Greyhounds prospect Andrew Gibson at 17:08, which at that time put the Thunderbirds up by three.

Then, with just under a minute to go in regulation, it would then be Beavers forward and former Soo Thunderbird Jake Kovacs getting his second goal of the postseason on the power play at 19:08 from Evan Fraccaro, which cut the Thunderbirds lead to 4-2.

Kovacs, who scored his second goal of the postseason on Sunday afternoon, also scored for the first time against his former team (Soo Thunderbirds).

“I thought we played well and we worked hard and gave it our all out there,” Kovacs said. “It felt good to score against my old team, but I love the group of guys I’m playing with now and we want to give it our all tomorrow (Monday) in game 4.”

Beavers goaltender Patrick Boivin gave up 4 goals on 33 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds netminder Noah Zeppa made 25 saves for the victory.

Zeppa, who made 25 saves on Sunday afternoon, was also named first star of the game.

“It obviously feels great,” said Zeppa, who now has a record of two wins and no losses in the playoffs. “The boys got back to work in the second period and pushed the pace. The group also played a structured game in front of me, and that always makes my job fun.”

The Thunderbirds, who are now up three-games-to-none in the NOJHL West Division semifinal series, will now look to wrap up the series on Monday night in game 4, which will take place at the Blind River Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

“We need to understand that the elimination game is the hardest one to win and we expect to get their best right from the drop of the puck,” Jarrett said. “We have to be ready to start on time and dictate the pace of the game.”

(Photo credit to Helene Rancourt)

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