By Matt Stefano
For the second straight game, the Soo Thunderbirds led 1-0 after twenty minutes of play, but in the end, it was once again the visiting team coming out with the victory.
On Monday night, the Soo Thunderbirds dropped a 3-2 decision to the Hearst Lumberjacks in game 2 of the NOJHL Final in front of 1084 fans at the GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie.
With the loss, the Thunderbirds now trail the Lumberjacks two-games-to-none in the best-of-seven series.
“I thought we outplayed them,” said Soo Thunderbirds defenceman Andrew Gibson. “There were just a couple mistakes that led to goals for them, but we fought hard even though we didn’t come out with the win.”
During Monday night’s game, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman and Soo Greyhounds prospect Andrew Gibson recorded two assists, which turned out to be his first multi-point game in the playoffs.
With the Thunderbirds trailing 3-2 with dying seconds left in third period, Gibson also came close to tying the game as he rang one of the crossbar just as time expired in regulation.
“Obviously I was mad that it didn’t go in,” Gibson said. “The time was low and I didn’t know what was happening. The guys were playing hard and it just went off the crossbar and it was unlucky.”
On Monday night, Hearst Lumberjacks forward Riley Klugerman led the way offensively as he scored two goals, including the game-winner.
Klugerman, who finished the night with two goals, also gave himself his first career multi-goal game.
“It felt good to get my first career multi-goal game tonight, but I couldn’t have done it without everyone else that was on the ice,” Klugerman said. “We got the shots through and we crashed the net hard and it was a full team effort.”
With the game tied 1-1 late in the second, Klugerman scored his first goal of the game and 3rd goal of the playoffs with just 20 ticks to go in the middle frame, giving his club a 2-1 lead after forty minutes of play.
“Sometimes we get off to slow starts, but we know we’re going to pull through,” Klugerman said. “We have a great group of guys in the dressing room and everyone wants to win. We feel like we just want it more every single game.”
After scoring the tying goal at the 19:40 mark of the second period, Klugerman then scored his second goal of the game and 4th goal of the playoffs with just 2:25 left to go in the third period, which at that time made the score 3-2 for the Lumberjacks.
“It felt great to score that late goal and help my team go up two-games-to-none,” Klugerman said. “I feel grateful that things went our way tonight and now we’re hoping to take the next two (games) at home.”
Thunderbirds rookie forward and Ottawa 67’s prospect Cooper Foster opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds on the power play, with his 8th goal of the playoffs at the 18:41 mark of the first, giving the Soo a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes of play.
Foster, who scored the opening goal of the game, also extended his point-scoring streak to six games.
At the 5:32 mark of the second period, it would then be the Lumberjacks getting on the board courtesy of Ryan Glazer’s 11th goal of the playoffs, which tied the game up at one.
Glazer, who scored his 11th goal of the playoffs on Monday night, was also coming off a three-goal performance back on Sunday night in game 1.
Rookie forward Kelsey Ouellet had the other goal for the Thunderbirds on Monday night while Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria also got on the scoresheet with two assists.
Ouellet’s goal, came on the power play at the 6:25 mark of the third period, which at that time tied the game up at two.
Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Metivier gave up 3 goals on 34 shots in the loss while Lumberjacks netminder Matteo Gennaro made 29 saves for the victory.
Gennaro, who made 29 saves on Monday night, was also named first star of the game.
“Gennaro played unbelievable,” Klugerman said of his teammate. “He kept us in the game, especially when we had a couple rough shifts and he’s the reason why we won game 2 tonight.”
The Thunderbirds, who are now down two-games-to-none in the NOJHL final, will now look to get a win on Thursday night in game 3 of the series, which will take place at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
“We now have two days off, so tomorrow (Tuesday) is going to be a recovery day for us,” Gibson said. “We’re going to get back at it in practice on Wednesday and we’ll hopefully come out with two wins in Hearst.”
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)