By Matt Stefano
They outshot the Beavers for the second straight game, but it once again ended in a Beavers victory.
After dropping a 6-3 decision one week ago in Blind River and outshooting the Beavers 41-35, the Soo Thunderbirds were back at home on Saturday night for their third straight meeting against the Blind River Beavers.
The Thunderbirds, who were off to an 0-2 start for the first time in franchise history, took on a Beavers team that came in with 2 wins and 0 losses.
Thunderbirds head coach Denny Lambert also made his debut behind the bench on Saturday night after missing the first two regular season games due to work commitments.
Despite outshooting Blind River 44-40 overall on Saturday night, the Thunderbirds dropped a 3-2 sudden death shootout loss to the Beavers at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
“I thought it was a really hard fought game,” said Thunderbirds head coach Denny Lambert. “We outshot them and out chanced them. We should’ve had a better fate tonight, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. When you play in these games it builds your character for down the road and that’s what we need to take out of this game.”
“We played really well tonight and we should’ve got the win and there’s no question in my mind. But we didn’t and it’s just something we need to learn from and we need to push a little harder next game,” Lambert added.
After a scoreless opening period, it would be the Thunderbirds going up 1-0 at the 5:44 mark of the second period as Michael Chaffay would notch his second goal of the season from Jacob Doucette and Ty Zachary.
The Beavers would then tie the game at the 12:28 mark of the second, courtesy of Lucas Adams second goal of the season from Noah Minns and Justin Mauro.
A power play goal by Beavers rookie forward and Sudbury Wolves 2020 eleventh round pick Devin Mauro at the 18:24 mark of the second, put the visitors up 2-1 after two periods of play.
Noah Minns and Andrew Malek had the assists on what would be Mauro’s first goal of his NOJHL career.
A power play goal by Thunderbirds forward Brock Santa Maria from Caleb Wood and Jacob Doucette with 4:52 left to go in the third, tied the game up at two.
Santa Maria, who had the tying goal, also returned to the Thunderbirds lineup on Saturday night after missing the first two games of the regular season due to an injury.
“Brock came up big for us when we were down 2-1 late in the third,” said Lambert. “It was nice to have Brock back in the lineup tonight and he played well for us.”
Jacob Doucette, who drew an assist on Santa Maria’s power play tally, finished off the night with two helpers.
“I thought Jacob was really aggressive and he really skated well. It was an intense game and Jacob was really into it tonight. He broke up a lot of plays to send them the other way to get his assists,” said Lambert.
On Saturday night, the Thunderbirds also went 1 for 7 on the man adavtantage.
“A power play can be just like a penalty kill. Sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s not and tonight it didn’t click they way we wanted it to, but that’s something we have to work on and everyday we need to get better,” said Lambert.
After a 2-2 tie through sixty minutes play, the teams were then headed to a shootout.
Beavers captain Nathan Balkwill scored the shootout winning goal in the eighth round of the shootout on Saturday night, giving his club their third consecutive victory.
Jacob Kelly also scored in the shootout for the Beavers in the second round.
Nicholas Jameus, Justin Mauro, Noah Minns, Caleb Minns, Andrew Malek and Devin Mauro were the other shooters for the Beavers in the shootout, but all of them did not score.
Thunderbirds forward Brock Santa Maria had the lone goal for the Soo in the shootout in the second round.
Cooper Smyl, Avery Rebek, Russell Oldham, Connor Toms, Parker Morgan, Warner Young and Tyson Doucette were the other shooters for the Thunderbirds in the shootout, but all of the did not score.
Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja made 38 saves in the loss while Beavers netminder Wyatt Courchaine stopped 42 shots for the victory.
The Thunderbirds will now be in Blind River on Sunday afternoon for their fourth straight meeting against the Beavers.
Puck drop is set for 2:00 p.m. at the Blind River Community Centre.
“We will think about all the things we can improve on, but we will also think of all the good things that we did and take the positives out of them. Sunday afternoon’s game is coming too quick, so we need to be focused and ready to go,” said Lambert.
(Photo by Bob Davies)