By Matt Stefano
Scoring goals early is important.
Especially when it’s in a playoff game!
On Friday night, in their first game of the 2023 postseason, the Soo Thunderbirds scored five goals in the first period as they went on to double up the Blind River Beavers by a score of 6-3 in game 1 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River.
The last time the Thunderbirds scored five goals in a first period during a playoff game, was back on March 7, 2011, when they defeated the Manitoulin Islanders by a score of 7-3 at the John Rhodes Community Centre in game 2 of the 2011 NOJHL’s West Division quarterfinal series.
“Obviously we got off to a great start tonight and we executed well,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, whose team took a 1-0 lead in the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series. “As the game went on, we got away from the things that were making us successful in the first, but credit to BR (Blind River) because they stayed with their game plan and pushed us to the end with their work ethic.”
“In the opening period, we came out with a game plan to execute early and that’s what we did,” added Soo Thunderbirds rookie forward Jackson Truchan, whose team fell behind 1-0 early in the first before going on to score five straight goals to build a 5-1 lead. “Even though they scored the first goal of the game, we didn’t step off the gas. We just kept coming and ended up scoring five straight goals.”
During Friday night’s game, Thunderbirds rookie forward Jackson Truchan led the way offensively with three goals and an assist, good for a four-point night.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan native also became the first T-Bird player to record four points in a postseason game since Robert Calisti and Steven Bellini both did back on April 5, 2018.
“JT (Jackson Truchan) was definitely a difference maker for us tonight,” Jarrett said. “I also thought his line with Capper (Dharan Cap) and Mauro did a great job controlling the pace while eating up a bunch of minutes.”
Truchan’s first goal of the game, came at the 5:50 mark of the first period, which at that time put the Soo ahead by a score of 2-1
The 20-year-old forward would then get his second goal of the night and second goal of the playoffs at the 14:40 mark of the first, which at that time made the score 4-1 for the Soo.
With the Thunderbirds leading the Beavers 5-3 with under five minutes to in the third period, Truchan would then get his third goal of the game and third goal of the playoffs with just 4:20 left to go in regulation, giving the Thunderbirds a 6-3 lead.
Truchan, who recorded a hat trick on Friday night in game 1 of the postseason, also became the first Thunderbird player to record a hat trick in an opening game of a postseason since Matt Caruso did back on March 19, 2016.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan native also became the first American-born player on the Thunderbirds to record a hat trick in a postseason game since Aaron Anderson did back on April 3, 2004.
“It’s an unreal feeling to get my first career playoff hat trick tonight and words can’t describe it,” Truchan said. “I was so excited with emotion after scoring my third goal of the game, which put us up 6-3 and getting this win tonight on the road is a great way to start the playoffs.”
During Friday night’s game, the Thunderbirds also got multi-point efforts from two other players, including Dharan Cap and Justin Mauro.
Cap had a goal and two helpers while Mauro finished the night with three assists.
Kaden Dundas had a power play goal for the T-Birds on Friday night while Tyler Boudreau, Callum McAuley, Ethan Novello and James Kearney all set up a goal each.
During Friday night’s game, the Beavers were led offensively by one line, as the line of Caleb Minns, Jesse Dupuis and Gavin Rocha combined for nine points.
Minns finished the night with a pair of goals and an assist, Dupuis scored once and set up another and Rocha set up three goals.
Minns, who led the Beavers in scoring during the regular season, scored the opening goal of the game at 3:01 mark of the first period, which at that time gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead.
Minns second goal of the game, then came at the 18:42 mark of the first, which at that time cut the T-Birds lead to 5-2 heading into the second.
Beavers netminder Gavin Disano gave up 4 goals on 14 shots, before being replaced in net by Charlie Burns, who then gave up 2 goals on 16 shots the rest of the way.
Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Miller made 26 saves for the victory.
Game 2 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal finals series will be on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. back at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River.