By Matt Stefano
They have not made it to the NOJHL Final since 2016, but on Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie, they were back in it!
After eliminating the Rayside Balfour Canadians 4 games to 2 back on Monday night, thanks to a 3-2 win over them at Chelmsford Arena, the Soo Thunderbirds were in action for game 1 of the NOJHL Final on Saturday night against the Hearst Lumberjacks at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
The Thunderbirds, who finished first in the NOJHL standings during the regular season with 89 points, finished 16 points ahead of the second place Lumberjacks.
Hearst would open the scoring just 5:43 into the first period, courtesy of assistant captain Garret Giertuga’s first career shorthanded tally, which put his club up 1-0.
The Soo would then respond at the 12:29 mark of the first, courtesy of Noah Boman’s sixth goal of the playoffs from Lucas Theriault, which tied the game up at one.
Then, with just 2:03 left to go in the first period, it would be Thunderbirds assistant captain Nick Smith getting his second goal of the playoffs on the power play from Noah Boman and Steven Bellini, which put the Soo up 2-1 after twenty minutes of action.
Boman’s assist on Smith’s goal, gave him his second point of the evening.
The lone goal of the second period would come of the stick of Thunderbirds forward Lucas Theriault, who notched his eighth goal of the playoffs from Noah Boman, which put the Soo up 3-1 after forty minutes of play.
Boman’s assist on Theriault’s tally, gave him his third three-point game of the 2019 playoffs.
Lumberjacks forward and Lakeville, Minnesota native Bradley Golant would notch his fifth goal of the playoffs with just forty five seconds to go in the third period from Max Griffioen and Troy Daniels, which cut the Thunderbirds lead to 3-2.
But it would be too little, too late for the Lumberjacks on Saturday night at the John Rhodes as the Thunderbirds would hold on for a 3-2 win to take game 1 of the NOJHL Final.
Lumberjacks goaltender and Vancouver, British Columbia native Nicholas Tallarico gave up three goals on thirty five shots in the loss.
Thunderbirds netminder and Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin native Colin Ahern made thirty stops for the win.
The Thunderbirds, who have opened up the NOJHL Final series with a 1-0 lead, will be right back in action this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. for game 2 at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin/www.ssmphotos.com)