By Matt Stefano
The Soo Thunderbirds will play their final home game of 2019 tonight at 7:00 p.m., when they take on the French River River Rapids at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
This will also be the Rapids first and only visit to the Soo this season.
The Thunderbirds enter tonight’s game with a record of 18 wins, 12 losses, 1 overtime loss and 3 shootout losses, good for 40 points and fourth in the West Division while the Rapids come in with a record of 8 wins, 20 losses, 3 overtime losses, and 1 shootout loss, good for only 20 points and last (sixth) in the East Division.
HEAD TO HEAD
In one meeting against the Rapids this season, the Thunderbirds defeated them by a score of 2-1 back on November 16th, at Noelville Arena.
Nick Smith set up two goals for the Thunderbirds that night while rookie forward Jake Kovacs notched the game winner with just 15 seconds to go in regulation time.
HOT ON THE BLUELINE
After recording his first career two-goal and three point game back on Sunday night against Elliot Lake, Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Warner Young enters tonight’s game with 3 goals and 20 assists.
Young, who leads all NOJHL rookie defensemen in assists with 20, is the first Thunderbird rookie defenceman to record 20 assists in a regular season since Steven Bellini did back in 2017-2018.
Thunderbirds co-captain Nick Smith enters tonight’s game with 91 career goals, and is just one goal away from tying the team record for most career goals by a Thunderbird player.
Nick Minardi (2004-2009) currently holds that record with 92.
NOT MUCH SCORING
The French River Rapids enter tonight’s game as the lowest scoring team in the NOJHL, only finding the back of the net 69 times so far this season.
SANTA MARIA IS COMING ALONG
Last weekend was an impressive one for Thunderbirds rookie forward Brock Santa Maria.
The 17 year old scored his first career game winning goal in a 4-1 win over the Soo Eagles last Saturday, followed by a two point performance last Sunday night, with a goal and an assist in a 11-0 victory over Elliot Lake.
The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native enters tonight’s game on a two-game goal scoring streak.
CAN’T KILL IT OFF
French River enters tonight’s game with the league’s worst penalty kill on the road, operating at 68.8%.
* This Thunderbirds game preview is sponsored by Giovanni’s Restaurant!
(Photo by Bob Davies)