Thunderbirds put up a season-high 8 goals against the Eagles

By Matt Stefano

Wednesday night’s game was a matchup between the top two teams in the NOJHL’s West Division.

But on the ice, the game appeared to be one-sided!

On Wednesday night, the first place Soo Thunderbirds hammered the second place Soo Eagles by a score of 8-1 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Thunderbirds, who scored 8 times on Wednesday night, also set a season-high for most goals scored in a single game.

“It felt great to get this win tonight,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett. “Tonight was one of the most complete sixty minutes that we played all year long, especially against a really good team. We feel like we’re for real. I know where we’re at in the standings and there’s lots of hockey left to be played, but for us this was a pretty good statement that we’re here to play. I’m extremely proud of the way we stepped up and delivered tonight.”

On Wednesday night, Thunderbirds forwards Dharan Cap and Colby Arbour led the way offensively with three points each.

Cap, who entered Wednesday night’s game with 3 goals and 5 assists, scored once and set up two others, giving him his first career three-point game.

The North Vancouver, British Columbia native has now given himself 11 points in 13 games since joining the Thunderbirds.

Arbour, who entered Wednesday night’s game with 3 goals and 7 assists, set up three goals, which also turned out to be his first career three-point game.

“You can see game after game that Cap and Arbour have been getting better,” Jarrett said. “In terms of their responsibility, I asked them (Cap and Arbour) to be responsible defensive first and then the offensive side will take care of itself. Their hard work without the puck is also resulting in some success on the scoresheet as well.”

On Wednesday night, Thunderbirds alternate captain Michael Chaffay also had a big night offensively as he scored two goals, including one on the power play (game-winner), good for his third straight multi-goal game.

“It felt good to get my third straight multi-goal game tonight, but I just followed the game plan and I was just able to get lucky with the passes,” Chaffay said. “Once I got the puck on my stick, I was able to put it in the back of the net.”

Chaffay, who recorded his third straight multi-goal game on Wednesday night, also became the first Thunderbird to record three straight multi-goal games since Matt Caruso did back in the 2015-2016 season.

“Obviously Matt Caruso was a big part of Soo Thunderbird culture and he was a good goal scorer, so it feels good to become the first Thunderbird to have three-straight multi-goal games since he did,” Chaffay said.

Wednesday night’s game against the Soo Eagles was also a big night for Thunderbirds rookie defenceman and Soo Greyhounds prospect Andrew Gibson.

The 17-year-old finished the night with two points, including a goal and an assist, giving him 35 points on the season.

Gibson, who recorded his 35th point on Wednesday night, also set the franchise record for most points by a rookie defenceman in a regular season, passing Barnabas Birkeland (2002-2003), who held the previous record 34.

“Gibby is beast out there during most nights with or without the puck,” Jarrett said. “He’s also a shooter too, so it’s not that surprising that he’s racking up the points here and knocking off records. His game just keeps getting better and better and he’s had some success early, but now it seems like he’s creating more not for himself but for the other players as well.”

Rookie forward Kenny Belanger Jr. also had a big night offensively for the Thunderbirds as he scored a pair of goals, including one on the power play, good for his first career two-goal game.

Belanger Jr. opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds with his 7th goal of the season at the 13:17 mark of the first period from Dharan Cap and Kaden Dundas, giving his hometown a 1-0 lead.

The Mississauga Steelheads prospect then got his second goal of the game on the power play at the 2:30 mark of the third period from Colby Arbour and Zane Burleigh, which at that time made the score 7-1 for his hometown Thunderbirds.

Thunderbirds rookie forward Cooper Foster also had a big night offensively with a power play goal and an assist while alternate captain Kyle Trottier also got on the scoresheet with one goal.

Forward Seth Ferguson had the lone goal for the Eagles while Zachary Briskey and Nicholas Castillo drew the assists.

Ferguson’s goal came at the 11:08 mark of the second period, which at that time cut the Thunderbirds lead to 6-1.

Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Zeppa made 19 saves for the victory, including one on a penalty shot that was taken by Seth Ferguson at the 11:14 mark of the third period.

Netminder Gabe Rosek, who got the start in net on Wednesday night for the Eagles, gave up 6 goals on 22 shots before being replaced by goaltender Ryan Gilmore, who then gave up 2 goals on 15 shots the rest of the way.

The Thunderbirds, who have now extended their winning streak to three games, will now look to extend their winning streak to four games for the second time this season on Saturday night, when they take on the Timmins Rock at the John Rhodes.

Puck drop for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.

(Photo credit to Matt Stefano)

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