By Matt Stefano
They didn’t get their ticket punched to the NOJHL Final on Saturday night, but they are still just one win away.
After heading into game 5 of the West Division Final series up 3 games to 1, the Soo Thunderbirds dropped a 5-3 decision to the Rayside Balfour Canadians on Saturday night at the GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Thunderbirds fell behind early in the first period as defenceman Zachary Snow put the Canadians up 1-0 with his first goal of the playoffs from Noah Serre at 3:18.
The Canadians would the go up by two just 2:02 later, courtesy of Kyle Liinamaa’s second goal of the postseason from Giordano Biondi.
The Thunderbirds, who went 0 for 8 on the power play in game 4 back on Thursday night, would finally get a power play goal at the 7:47 mark of the first period, courtesy of Matthew Bazarin’s fourth goal of the playoffs from Nick Smith and Steven Bellini, which cut the Canadians lead to 2-1.
The Canadians would then get a power play goal of their own at the 13:21 mark of the first, as Ethan Lavallee would get his second goal of the postseason from Benjamin Hatanaka, which put his club up by two after twenty minutes of play.
Power plays would continue to work for the Thunderbirds at the start of the second period, as Noah Boman would notch his fourth goal of the postseason on the power play from Lucas Theriault at 3:35, which cut the Canadians lead to 3-2.
Then, just twenty one seconds after Boman’s power play marker, the Canadians would then respond with a shorthanded goal by Noah Serre, which put Thunderbirds down by two goals once again.
Skead, Ontario native Ethan Lavallee would then give the Canadians a three-goal cushion with his second goal of the night and third of the playoffs with just eight seconds to go in the second.
Canadians captain Evan Krassey and Benjamin Hatanaka would draw the assists on Lavallee’s second goal of the night.
After giving up five goals on twenty one shots through two periods of play, Thunderbirds rookie netminder Colin Ahern would then be replaced in net by William Anderson, who got his first taste of the NOJHL playoffs at the start of the third.
The Thunderbirds would get the lone goal in the third period, courtesy of defenceman Ryan Lawrence’s third goal of the playoffs from Nolan Ford and Lucas Theriault with just 4:30 left to go in the third, which cut the Canadians lead to 5-3.
Lawrence, who now has three goals this postseason, actually finished with a career-high three goals during the 2018-2019 regular season.
Despite outshooting the Canadians 42-29 overall, the Thunderbirds dropped game 5 of the West Division Final at the GFL Memorial Gardens by a score of 5-3, but will now get set for game 6 this Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Chelmsford Arena.
The Thunderbirds have had success so far in this series at the Chelmsford Arena, as they have won both games 3 & 4 over there.
William Anderson, who replaced Colin Ahern in net at the start of the third period, was perfect in goal for the Thunderbirds, stopping all eight shots directed his way.
Canadians goaltender David Bowen made thirty nine saves for the victory.
Saturday, April 6th, was a day that saw a trio of players who have suited up for a few games with the Thunderbirds this season, have their names get called by OHL teams as the 2019 OHL Priority Selection took place.
Three of those players include defensemen Jack Matier and Tyler Dunbar and forward Stephen Pszeninczny.
IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL
Defenceman and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Jack Matier was selected in the 1st round (21st overall) by the Hamilton Spectator Trophy champion Ottawa 67’s.
Matier, who served as captain of the GNML’s Soo Thunderbirds Minor Midget AAA club, scored ten times and set up twelve others in twenty one games with them during the 2018-2019 regular season.
He also suited up for one game with the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds back on March 26th in Blind River.
Matier, who was taken in the first round by the Ottawa 67’s on Saturday, became the first Sooite to be drafted in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection since Nicholas Porco, who was in the 1st round (4th overall) by the Saginaw Spirit back in 2017.
FROM A THUNDERBIRD TO A FIREBIRD
He’s currently getting some ice time with the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds this postseason, but on Saturday, he found out he is becoming another bird!
After suiting up for 23 games with the GNML’s Soo Thunderbirds Minor Midget AAA club, and 7 with the Soo Thunderbirds Midget AAA club, defenceman and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan native Tyler Dunbar was selected by the Flint Firebirds in the 3rd round (44th overall) on Saturday.
Dunbar, who put up 16 points with the Soo Thunderbirds Minor Midget AAA club, also added 1 more point as a member of the Soo Thunderbirds Midgets.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan product suited up for two games with the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds during the 2018-2019 regular season, where he had one assist and two penalty minutes.
Dunbar currently has two penalty minutes in three playoff games with the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds.
DOG HOUSE DOWN SOUTH
After spending the 2018-2019 regular season in the GNML, splitting time with the Soo Thunderbirds Minor Midget AAA club and the Soo Thunderbirds Midgets, forward and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Stephen Pszeninczny was drafted by the Niagara IceDogs in the 15th round (299th overall) on Saturday.
Pszeninczny had ten goals and thirteen assists in a total of thirty five games played in the GNML during the 2018-2019 regular season.
Another player who is currently drafted by the Niagara IceDogs on the NOJHL’s Soo Thunderbirds, is 2019 NOJHL scoring champion Lucas Theriault.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin/www.ssmphotos.com)