Thunderbirds battle back but lose in overtime

By Matt Stefano

After picking up four of a possible six points on the road this past weekend, the Soo Thunderbirds returned to John Rhodes ice for their 2017-2018 home opener on Friday night as they took on 2017 NOJHL Coach of the Year Kyle Brick and his Blind River Beavers.

The Thunderbirds dropped their home opening game on Friday night, but still picked up one point as they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Blind River Beavers.

After trailing 3-1 after two periods of play, the Thunderbirds would get goals in the third period from Noah Solinger and Alex Acosta, which tied the game up at three, but Steven Khull’s power play goal just 2:28 into the overtime period would give the Beavers the victory.

It also improved the Beavers record to 3-0 on the season.

“I thought it was a pretty good game by the guys even though we were short staffed, but us battling back to at least pick up a point was pretty good,” said Thunderbirds second year forward Nick Smith.

Smith, who scored the game winning goal in a 1-0 win over Timmins this past Sunday in their final game of a three-game road trip, scored once and set up another in Friday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Blind River.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native is also just one five returning players from a season ago.

“It feels pretty good,” Smith continued. “It’s nice to be a leader on this team and have some of the new guys to look up to you and I’d like to show them the right way to go.”

The Thunderbirds went 6 for 8 on the penalty kill while going 1 for 10 on the power play.

“I’d say the penalties broke up the flow of the game,” continued the second year forward. “I’m more of a skilled player, so I don’t really like when the game is chippy. But we have to battle through it because sometimes that’s the way it goes.”

The Thunderbirds, who now have a record of 2 wins, 1 loss, and 1 overtime loss, will conclude their home opening weekend on Saturday night vs the defending NOJHL champion Powassan Voodoos at 7:30 p.m. from the John Rhodes.

“We are going to have to be ready because we are playing a good team, so even though we are going to be short staffed, we have to bring our A game and hopefully come out with the win,” concluded Smith.

Bradon Caruso, Nicholas Case and Kaidan McDonald all had an assist each for the Thunderbirds.

Beavers assistant captain Steven Khull, who scored his first career overtime goal, also added an assist for a two point night.

Caleb Serre (power play), Ryan Cullen and Owen Robinson had the other goals for the Beavers while single assists went to Jacob Papesh and Nick Richards.

Max Khull and Ryan Nielsen had two assists each for the Beavers.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Garrett Boyonoski made 32 saves for the Beavers victory while Thunderbirds assistant captain and third year net-minder Brandon Gordon gave up 4 goals on 32 shots in the loss.

(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)

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