By Matt Stefano
And so, they will meet again!
For the second straight year, the Soo Thunderbirds will play against the Rayside Balfour Canadians in the NOJHL’s West Division Final, thanks to Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Blind River Beavers in game 6 of the West Division Semifinal.
With the Thunderbirds leading the West Division Semifinal series 3 games to 2 heading into Tuesday night, the Thunderbirds defeated the Beavers by a score of 4-3 in game 6 at the Blind River Community Centre.
The Thunderbirds would get the first goal of the game at the 6:33 mark of the opening period, courtesy of Ryan Lawrence’s second goal of the playoffs from Tanner Mayne.
Lawrence, who had an empty net goal for the Thunderbirds back on Sunday night in game 5, also extended his goal streak to two games.
The Beavers would then tie the game up on the power play at the 8:17 mark of the first, courtesy of Ethan Graham’s first goal of the postseason from Sooites Ryan Mulligan and Justin Mauro.
The Soo would then take a 2-1 lead after the first period, thanks to Lucas Theriault’s team-leading fifth goal of the postseason from Noah Boman and Matthew Bazarin at 16:47.
Then, just forty two seconds into the middle frame, it would be Beavers forward Riley Nadeau getting his second goal of the playoffs from Andrew Warhoftig and Ryan Peck, which tied the game up at two.
Thunderbirds captain Kaidan McDonald would then put his club ahead 3-2 with his third goal of the playoffs from Nick Smith and Spencer Van Tiem at 6:07.
McDonald, who had a shorthanded tally in game 5 back on Sunday night, also extended his goal streak to two games.
The Beavers would the tie the game up at three at the 16:34 mark of the second, courtesy of Ryan Peck’s team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs from Dante Cavaliere.
Then, with just one minute remaining in the second, it would be Thunderbirds defenceman Steven Bellini getting his first career playoff goal on the power play from Nick Smith, which put the Soo up 4-3 after two.
Smith’s assist on Bellini’s power play goal, also gave him his second assist of the night.
With no scoring happening in the third, the Thunderbirds lead after two periods proved to be enough though as they would go on to defeat the Beavers by a score 4-3 at the Blind River Community Centre.
The Thunderbirds, who defeated the Beavers in game 6 on Tuesday night in Blind River, were also the first team to win on the road in this head to head series.
Jackson Hjelle gave up four goals on twenty shots in the Beavers loss while Thunderbirds netminder Colin Ahern made twenty four saves for the victory.
With the win, the Thunderbirds have now eliminated the Beavers in six games, and will now move on to the NOJHL’s West Division Final, where they will meet the Rayside Balfour Canadians for the second consecutive year.
Not to mention Rayside eliminated the Soo in six games in the 2018 West Division Final series.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin/www.ssmphotos.com)