By Matt Stefano
After defeating the Timmins Rock by a score of 4-1 on Sunday night in game 3 of the NOJHL final at the John Rhodes and taking a two-games-to-one lead in the series, the Soo Thunderbirds were hoping to put a stranglehold lead on the series on Monday night as they were back at the John Rhodes for game 4.
On Monday night, the Soo Thunderbirds surrendered a total of seven goals, including a pair of empty netters in the third period, as they fell to the Rock by a score of 7-4 in game 4 of the NOJHL final.
The last time the Thunderbirds gave up seven goals in a playoff game, was back on April 14, 2019, when they lost 7-3 to the Hearst Lumberjacks in game 2 of the 2019 NOJHL final.
The Rock opened the scoring at the 7:44 mark of the first period, courtesy of Nicolas Pigeon’s 4th goal of the playoffs from Felix Cadieux-Fredette and Lucas Piekarczyk, which gave the Rock a 1-0 lead heading into the second.
With the Thunderbirds on a man advantage early in the second period, it would then be Thunderbirds forward Dharan Cap getting his 9th goal of the playoffs on the power play from Jackson Truchan and Justin Mauro at 5:18, which tied the game up at one.
Truchan, who drew an assist on Cap’s power play goal, also gave himself his 18th point of the playoffs, which set the new franchise record for most points by an American-born player in a playoff season, passing Justin Scott (2010), who held the previous record with 17.
Just 36 seconds after Cap’s goal, it would then be Timmins forward Ethan Pool getting his 7th goal of the playoffs from Nicholas Frederick and Kenyon Nyman, which put the Rock ahead 2-1.
The Rock would then take a two-goal-lead at the 16:02 mark of the second, courtesy of Liam Wells 2nd goal of the playoffs from Christophe Petit, which made the score 3-1.
The Soo would then get some life back just 2:21 later, as Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria would notch his 4th goal of the playoffs from Kaden Dundas and Wyatt Marlow, which cut the Rock’s lead to 3-2.
The one-goal-lead wouldn’t last long though, as Timmins would then regain a two-goal-lead just 1:19 later, courtesy of Brandon Rossetti’s 2nd goal of the playoffs from Nicholas Frederick and Nicolas Pigeon, which made the score 4-2.
Pigeon’s assist on Rossetti’s goal, also turned out to be his 16th point of the playoffs, which set the new Rock record for most points by a Rock player in a playoff season, passing Keegan McMullen (Former Soo Greyhound), who held the previous record with 15 back in 2019.
The Rock would then go up by three goals just eleven seconds later, as forward Ethan Pool would then get his second goal of the game and 8th goal of the playoffs from Harry Clark, which made the score 5-2 heading into the third.
After giving up 5 goals on 25 shots through the first two periods of play, Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller was then replaced in net by Kolton Bourret at the start of the third period.
With the Thunderbirds trailing the Rock 5-2 just over eight minutes into third period, it would then be Thunderbirds affiliate player Callum McCauley getting his first career playoff goal from Michael Chaffay and Justin Mauro at 8:15, which cut the Rock’s lead to two.
The Thunderbirds would then make things a little more interesting with just under three minutes left to go in regulation, as defenceman Tyler Boudreau would then notch his 3rd goal of the playoffs from Jackson Truchan and Declan Gallivan at 17:44, which cut the Rock’s lead to 5-4.
Truchan, who drew an assist on Boudreau’s goal, also gave himself his 12th assist of the playoffs, which set the new franchise record for most assists by an American-born player in a playoff season, passing Justin Scott (2010) and Barnabas Birkeland (2003), who both shared the previous record with 11.
With the Thunderbirds goaltender Kolton Bourret on the bench for an extra attacker late in the third period, the Rock would then get a pair of empty net goals just 24 seconds apart from Brady Harroun and Liam Wells, which quickly turned a 5-4 lead into a 7-4 lead.
Harroun’s empty-net goal, came at the 19:08 mark of the third period from Harry Clark, which gave the Rock a 6-4 lead.
Wells would then get an empty net goal at 19:32 from Jason Charette and Brandon Rossetti, which at that time made the score 7-4.
Rock goaltender Jacob Brown made 20 saves for the victory.
Thunderbirds goaltender Kolton Bourret, who replaced Landon Miller at the start of the third period, stopped all 6 shots directed his way.
Game 5 of the NOJHL final will now take place on Wednesday night in Timmins, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the McIntyre Arena.
ANOTHER LUCKY FIVE?
So far during this playoff season, the Soo Thunderbirds have a 2-0 record when it comes to game fives.
In game 5 of the semifinal series against the Blind River Beavers back on March 31, the Thunderbirds defeated the Beavers by a score of 6-2 at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River, and went on to eliminate the Beavers that series in five games.
Then, in game 5 of the West Division final series against the Greater Sudbury Cubs back on April 13, the Thunderbirds defeated the Cubs by a score of 7-3 at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury, and went on to eliminate the Cubs in five games in the West Division final.
So if the Thunderbirds end up winning game 5 of the NOJHL final on Wednesday night in Timmins, the Thunderbirds will then have a chance to hoist the Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in game 6 of the NOJHL final on Sunday night in the Soo.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)