Thunderbirds score three times in the second period to go on to eliminate Beavers

By Matt Stefano

A three-goal second period was once again the difference for the Soo Thunderbirds on Monday night!

After scoring three times in the second period in Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 victory over the Blind River Beavers in game 3 of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series, the Soo Thunderbirds had a 3-goal second period once again on Monday night in game 4, as they went on to defeat the Blind River Beavers by a score of 4-1 at the Blind River Community Centre in Blind River.

The Thunderbirds, who defeated the Beavers 4-1 on Monday night in game 4, also swept the NOJHL West Division semifinal series four-games-to-none.

“I thought we played a solid game from start to finish,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett, who won his first ever NOJHL playoff series behind the bench. “We came out hard and it dictated the pace of the first period. In the second period it was more of the same, but we found a way to get three goals by their goalie (Jeremi Delaquis) who played outstanding for them tonight.”

The last time the Thunderbirds swept an NOJHL playoff series, was back on April 22, 2016, when they eliminated the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners four-games-to-none in the 2016 NOJHL final.

That was also the last time the Thunderbirds went on to be crowned Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy champions.

“It always feels great to win a series, but it feels even better to get a sweep,” said Soo Thunderbirds captain Brock Santa Maria, who played in his 13th career playoff game on Monday night. “It’s hard to get a sweep, but it always helps in long playoff runs.”

After skating to a 1-1 tie through twenty minutes of play, the Thunderbirds then scored three times in the second period, thanks to goals by Dharan Cap (game-winner), Russell Oldham (power play) and Kenny Belanger Jr.

Cap, who scored the game-winning goal on the power play on Monday night, finished the night with a goal and an assist, and was also named first star of the game.

“It felt good to put the series away and complete the sweep tonight in Blind River,” Cap said. “We’re excited to keep the season going and we’re looking forward to the next matchup.”

During Monday night’s game, the Thunderbirds also got multi-point efforts from two other players, including rookie forward Youssef Chaouachi and second-year blueliner Kaden Dundas.

Chaouachi and Dundas both finished the night with two assists each.

“Youssef and Kaden both had a strong games tonight and I also thought they were solid throughout the entire first round,” Jarrett said.

The Thunderbirds took a 1-0 lead at the 3:50 mark of the opening period, courtesy of Michael Chaffay’s 3rd goal of the postseason from Kyle Trottier and Brock Santa Maria.

Chaffay, who entered Monday night’s game as the Thunderbirds top point getter in the playoffs, also gave himself his team-leading 6th point of the postseason.

The Beavers would then get on the board at the 19:06 mark of the first period, courtesy of Evan Fraccaro’s second goal of the postseason on the power play from Caleb Minns and Jake Kovacs, which at that time tied the game up at one.

During Monday night’s game, Thunderbirds second-year forward Ethan Novello also got on the scoresheet as he recorded one assist, giving him his first career playoff point.

Beavers goaltender Jeremi Delaquis gave up 4 on 44 shots in the loss while Thunderbirds rookie netminder Noah Metiver made 20 saves for the victory.

The Thunderbirds, who have now punched their ticket into the NOJHL West Division final, will now await to play the winner of the NOJHL West Division semifinal series between the Greater Sudbury Cubs and the Soo Eagles.

The Eagles currently lead that best-of-seven series two-games-to-one.

“It’s nice to get some time off between rounds,” Jarrett said. “We have some guys that were banged up in this series against Blind River, so it will be nice to get some rest and recovery and be ready for our next opponent.”

(Photo credit to Matt Stefano)

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