By Matt Stefano
After losing by a score of 4-3 to the Rayside Balfour Canadians on Wednesday night in Game 3 of the NOJHL’s West Division Final, the Soo Thunderbirds were back in action 24 hours later for Game 4 at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
The Thunderbirds, who trailed 2-1 after the first period, came back with seven unanswered goals, including five in the third period to go on to an 8-2 victory over the Rayside Balfour Canadians in Game 4 of the NOJHL’s West Division Final.
“We have a really good group and we all want to do well,” said Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Robert Calisti. “We didn’t want to go down 3-1 and have to come all the way back. We were lucky at the start. We got a few quick ones early in the second and went from there.”
On Thursday night, rookie defencemen Robert Calisiti and Steven Bellini both led the way offensively for the Thunderbirds with four assists each.
Calisti’s four assist performance has now also moved him into first among all NOJHL blueliners in playoff points with nine (2 goals and 7 assists), moving him one point ahead of Canadians defenceman Ryan O’Bonsawin.
The Thunderbirds have not had a defenceman record four assists in a playoff game since Brandon Grandinetti did back on March 15th, 2015.
“I was lucky with a couple good passes I made,” continued Calisti. “We have a couple guys that can finish and I was lucky with that.”
Thunderbirds forward Tyler Malpass scored a pair of goals, including one on the power play along with adding an assist for his first three points of the 2018 postseason.
Lucas Theriault, Kaidan McDonald and Noah Solinger all had a power play goal and an assist each for the Thunderbirds while Nick Smith (power play), Braden Robbins and Mark Tassone all had one goal each.
Austin Heinrich, Nolan Ford and Spencer Van Tiem all had one assist each for the Thunderbirds.
Matthew Neault led the way offensively for the Canadians with two assists while Brady Maltais and Kyle Liinamaa (power play) had a goal each.
Gabriel Rhealt also got on the scoresheet with one assist for the Canadians.
Thunderbirds goaltender Eric Schuch made 14 saves for the win while Canadians netminder Brayden Lachance gave up 8 goals on 51 shots in the loss.
The Thunderbirds, who have now evened up the West Division Final series at two games apiece, will now hit the road for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at Chelmsford Arena.
“We need to just play our game,” concluded Calisti. “When we put pressure on them, we get a lot of chances.”
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)