By Matt Stefano
After dropping a 4-1 decision to the Rayside Balfour Canadians in Game 5 of the West Division Final series on Sunday afternoon at Chelmsford Arena, the Soo Thunderbirds were looking to keep their season alive just over 24 hours later as they were back at the John Rhodes Community Centre for Game 6 on Monday night.
Despite outshooting the Canadians 37-32 overall, the Thunderbirds dropped another 4-1 decision to the Canadians this time at the John Rhodes Community Centre, and have been eliminated 4 games to 2 in the NOJHL’s West Division Final.
“I want to compliment the kids,” said Thunderbirds head coach John Parco. “They came to the rink everyday, worked hard and really wanted to learn. It’s unfortunate that it had to end this way, but it is what it is.”
Thunderbirds first year head coach John Parco, who became the fourth head coach in franchise history to be named the NOJHL’s coach of the year, helped guide the club to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 season.
“It’s all about the kids,” continued Parco. “They came to the rink and worked hard. They play the game. I don’t play the game, so the compliments go to the players.”
Canadians goaltender Brayden Lachance, who gave up one goal on 35 shots in Game 5 on Sunday afternoon, stopped 36 of the 37 shots he faced in Game 6 on Monday night.
“We just couldn’t get any goals past their goalie,” continued Parco. “We just didn’t get any breaks. The guys really worked hard. We could’ve popped in a few more goals because we had more scoring chances, but things just didn’t go our way near the end.”
Rookie defenceman Robert Calisti, who is a 2017 3rd round pick of the Soo Greyhounds, led the Thunderbirds in scoring during the postseason with 2 goals and 10 points.
The Toronto, Ontario native played 6 games with the Soo Greyhounds this season, before being assigned to the Soo Thunderbirds in October.
“Robbie came to us to learn and to get better,” continued Parco. “He played a lot of minutes for us every night. One thing about Robbie is that you can never doubt his heart. He comes to the rink everyday and works hard every game. Sometimes the little mistakes he makes is because he wants to do more and not because he wants to do less, and that’s my compliment to him.”
Lucas Theriault (power play) had the lone goal for the Thunderbirds with assists going to Bradon Caruso and Robert Calisti.
Canadians forward Jacob Partridge led the offensively with a shorthanded goal and two assists.
Forward Evan Krassey scored a pair of goals for the Canadians while defenceman Jordan Spadafore also had a multi point night with a pair of assists.
Taylor Woolcott had the other goal for the Canadians.
Ethan Lavallee, Noah Serre and Ryan O’Bonsawin all chipped in with one assist each for the Canadians.
Thunderbirds goaltender Brandon Gordon, who is one of two graduating players on this year’s team, played in his final NOJHL game on Monday night, making 28 saves.
During his three seasons with the Thunderbirds from 2015-2018, Gordon has set a trio of team records, including most career wins (60), most career shutouts (11) and most career games played by a goaltender (92).
“Gordo is a class act all around,” concluded Parco. “He’s a great person. He’s a hard working kid. He’s very disciplined and dedicated. Nobody could ever say enough about Brandon Gordon.”
In Monday night’s game at the John Rhodes Community Centre, the Soo Thunderbirds helped raise nearly $5000 towards the Humboldt Broncos fundraising efforts.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)