By Matt Stefano
After picking up their first win of the season just over two weeks ago in Blind River, the Soo Thunderbirds returned to the John Rhodes Community Centre on Tuesday, December 15th as they took on the Espanola Express, who came in as the top team the NOJHL’s West Division.
And talk about a dominant performance!
The Thunderbirds scored eight times, including five goals in final twenty minutes of play as they went on to hammer the Express by a score of 8-1.
They also outshot the Express 63-31 overall.
“I have to give the kids in the dressing room all the credit. They stuck with the game plan and they didn’t quit. They kept on going for the whole sixty minutes and usually when you do that you come out on the victory side,” said Thunderbirds head coach Denny Lambert.
Thunderbirds defenceman Cam Dutkiewicz opened the scoring with his first goal of the season at the 18:48 mark of the first period, putting the Soo up 1-0 after twenty minutes of play.
“He’s always been very solid defensively and it’s nice to see him get rewarded with a goal. It was a good one time shot and he did a great job being ready for that shot and it was a great goal for him,” said Lambert.
On Tuesday night, The Thunderbirds also saw a great performance from rookie defenceman Connor Toms.
Toms, who entered Tuesday night’s game with 2 goals and 4 points, set up three goals and earned himself the Subway First Star of the Game.
He also moved into a three-way tie with Griffin Simpson (French River Rapdis) and Brendan Boyce (Timmins Rock) for second among NOJHL defencemen in scoring.
“He’s done a tremendous job and we put him in the top four pairings. He does some special things when he gets on the power play and even five on five. We’re really happy for Connor and it’s a great start for him,” said Lambert.
Rookie forward Tyson Doucette also had a big night offensively for the Thunderbirds on Tuesday night, scoring his first NOJHL goal on the power play and setting up another.
Thunderbirds goaltender Scott Young, who played in his second game between the pipes on Tuesday night, made 30 saves for his first NOJHL victory.
“It’s always special to get your first goal or your first win. And we’re very happy for both of them that they were able to do those things,” said Lambert. “Young has more wins coming for himself and it’s very exciting to see Doucette score a goal. Everytime Doucette gets into the tough areas to score, he’s going to score a lot of goals.”
Tuesday night’s game also saw a pair of Thunderbird forwards get multi goal games.
Cooper Smyl scored twice, including once on the man advantage while Caleb Wood also had two goals, including one on the power play.
Both of Wood’s tallies came 2:24 apart in the second period, giving the Soo a 3-0.
Michael Chaffay had a goal and an assist for the Soo while Parker Morgan also got on the scoresheet with one goal.
Mark Hill, Will Josephson and Russell Oldham all chipped in with two assists each for the Thunderbirds while Ty Zachary, Kaden Dundas and Avery Rebek all recorded one assist each.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Cole Delarosbil had the lone goal for the Express on the power play with just sixteen seconds left to go in the second period, cutting the Thunderbirds lead to 3-1 after two periods of play.
Nick Toffoli and Lucas Littlejohn had the assists on Delarosbil’s power play tally.
Espress goaltender Carson Boutin gave up 2 goals on 28 shots, before being replaced in net by Luke Beally, who then gave up 6 goals on 35 shots the rest of the way.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now improved their record to 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 shootout loss while Express fall to 3 wins, 2 losses and 2 shootout losses, but still sit in first place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
The Soo will now be right back in action against the Express on Thursday, December 17th, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
“Tonight was a really good game right from the beginning and we eventually took it over. But Espanola is a good team with a lot of skill and a lot of speed. We can’t get to high on our highs and too low on our lows and we need to look ahead now and get those other two points”said Lambert.
(Photo by Bob Davies)