By Matt Stefano
That’s how many rounds the shootout lasted on Sunday afternoon decide to the winner between the Soo Thunderbirds and the Hearst Lumberjacks.
Benjamin Thornley-Hall’s goal in the eighth round of the shootout turned out be the shootout-winner, as the Hearst Lumberjacks defeated the Soo Thunderbirds by a score of 4-3 in a shootout at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Lumberjacks, who defeated the Thunderbirds 4-3 in a shootout, were also coming off a 6-3 loss to the Elliot Lake Red Wings back on Saturday night in Elliot Lake, followed by a 7-5 loss to the Soo Eagles back on Friday night in Sault, Michigan.
“We needed this win this afternoon,” said Hearst Lumberjacks leading scorer Zachary Demers. “We lost our first two games on this road trip, and for us to end this road trip with a victory this afternoon feels great.”
The Lumberjacks opened the scoring at the 4:55 mark of the first period, as forward Zachary Demers scored his 19th goal of the season on a penalty shot, which gave his club a 1-0 lead.
Demers, who scored his 19th goal, also gave himself his 76th point of the season, which set the new franchise record for most points by a Lumberjack player during a regular season.
The previous record for most points by a Lumberjack player during a regular season, was held by Jake Desando, who had 75 back in 2018-2019.
“It feels great to set the record for most points by a Lumberjack player during a regular season,” Demers said. “I don’t really pay too much attention to stats though, but my teammates and coaches all congratulated me after I did that.”
“Zach (Demers) deserves it,” added Hearst Lumberjacks assistant coach Christian Gratton. “Zach works hard, he plays big minutes for us, he’s a big competitor and he doesn’t like to lose. It was great to see Zach set that record this afternoon and we’re happy to have a guy like him on our team.”
Just twenty-two seconds after seeing Demers make history, the Lumberjacks then got a goal from forward Mathieu Comeau with an assist going to Andrew Morton, which put the Lumberjacks up by a score of 2-0.
The goal by Comeau, was his 15th goal of the season.
With the game still 2-0 with just under eight minutes to go in first, the Thunderbirds then got on the board at 12:04, courtesy of Jackson Truchan’s 26th goal of the season from Youssef Chaouachi and Dharan Cap, which cut the Lumberjacks lead to 2-1 heading into the second.
Despite trailing the Lumberjacks 2-1 after the first period, the Thunderbirds outshot the Lumberjacks 14-9 in that opening frame.
With the Thunderbirds trailing 2-1 almost three and half minutes into the second, it would then be Thunderbirds forward Alex Remenda getting his 6th goal of the season at 3:26, unassisted, which tied things up at two.
The Thunderbirds would then get their first lead of the afternoon on the power play at the 18:00 mark of the second, courtesy of Ethan Novello’s 13th goal of the season from Justin Mauro and Michael Chaffay, which put the Soo ahead 3-2 heading into the third period.
With the Lumberjacks on a man advantage just under halfway through the third, it would then be Lumberjacks forward Riley Klugerman getting his 27th goal of the season from Tyler Bortkiewicz at 10:42, which tied things up at three heading into overtime.
With neither team finding the back of the net in overtime, the club’s were then headed to a shootout.
The shootout, which lasted up to eight rounds on Sunday afternoon, saw a total of seven goals scored, including four from Hearst and three from the Soo.
Jett Mintenko, Tyler Patterson, Mathieu Comeau and Benjamin Thornley-Hall (Shootout-winner) all had the goals in the shootout for the Lumberjacks while Youssef Chaouachi, Dharan Cap and Tyler Boudreau all had the goals in the shootout for the Thunderbirds.
“I thought we had a good start when we went up 2-0 in the first period, but then we came out sloppy in the second and we gave the Thunderbirds a chance to get back in the game,” said Gratton, whose team got outshot 46-31 after three periods, before outshooting the Thunderbirds 4-0 in overtime. “During the second period, we also got into a bit of penalty trouble, and then I told the guys in the room during the second intermission that we need to have a good third period and we need to battle back and dig deep, and that’s what the guys did when we came out in the third.”
On Sunday afternoon, Lumberjacks goaltender Ethan Dinsdale was named first star of the game, as he made a season-high 43 saves for his 21st victory of the season.
Dinsdale, who picked up his 21st victory of the season, also moved into a tie with Liam Oxner (2019-2020 & 2021-2022) for the second most wins by a Lumberjack goaltender during a regular season.
“Dinsdale stood on his head for most of the game and it’s hard to get shots past him, but I thought we did a good job of trying to get traffic in front of him,” said Soo Thunderbirds forward Alex Remenda, whose team had 46 shots on net, but failed to get a shot on goal in overtime.
During Sunday afternoon’s game, the Thunderbirds were also missing five regulars from their lineup, including Kolby Fellinger (Injury), Kaden Dundas (Injury), Wyatt Marlow (Injury), Ranon Joseph (Injury) and Brodie McConnell-Barker (Suspended).
“I thought we put up a good battle this afternoon and sometimes it’s hard to play when you’re missing five guys from your lineup, but I thought we had Hearst on their backs for about 80% of the game,” Remenda said.
Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller, who got his second straight start in net on Sunday afternoon, made 31 saves in the loss, including 4 in overtime.
With the loss, the Thunderbirds record now falls to 35-14-3-3, good for 76 points as they will finish the regular season third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
The Thunderbirds still do have three games remaining (All on the road) in the regular season, but cannot finish higher or lower than third place in the West.
Next action for the Thunderbirds will be on Friday night at 7:00 p.m., when they will visit Kirkland Lake to take on the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
On Sunday, March 12, the Soo Thunderbirds fell to the Hearst Lumberjacks by a score of 4-3 in an eight-round shootout.
The last time the Thunderbirds were involved in a shootout that lasted up to eight rounds, was back on November 28, 2020, when they fell to the Blind River Beavers by a score of 3-2 in a shootout at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
GAME SHEET NEWS
In the Lumberjacks 6-3 loss to the Elliot Lake Red Wings back on Saturday night in Elliot Lake, Lumberjacks forward Zachary Demers finished that night with two assists, but a third assist was then credited to him prior to Sunday afternoon’s game in the Soo.
Demers, who was credited with a third assist on Saturday, entered Sunday afternoon’s game in the Soo with 75 points on the season.
(Photo credit to Bob Davies)