By Matt Stefano
On Thursday night, the Soo Thunderbirds played their first home game of 2018 as they took on the Timmins Rock at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Thursday night’s game also marked the debut of forward Spencer Van Tiem, who was signed by the Thunderbirds on Wednesday.
On Thurdsay night, The Thunderbirds shutout the Timmins Rock for the second time this season, defeating them by a score of 5-0 at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
“It was a good game and we created a lot of offence,” said Thunderbirds head coach John Parco. “It was also a real scrambly game and there were a lot of penalties, so it was tough to get a little bit of rhythm going, but for the most part we did really well.”
In their first meeting back on September 10th, 2017, the Thunderbirds blanked the Rock 1-0 at McIntyre Arena.
With the win over Timmins on Thursday night, the Thunderbirds have also swept the regular season series against them two games to none.
“Our team always puts a lot of emphasis on defence,” continued Parco. “The guys are playing really solid as a team, we are shutting down the D zone and neutral zone. So it’s just a matter of good team defence.”
Thunderbirds top scorer Nick Smith scored twice, including one shorthanded tally, giving him a league leading 28 goals on the season.
“Smitty has been great for us all season,” said Parco. “He’s consistent every game he gets in.”
Thunderbirds newly named captain Noah Solinger scored a power play goal and set up another in Thursday night’s win.
“We’ve come a long way since that game we played against them earlier in the year,” said Thunderbirds captain Noah Solinger. “It just feels good to keep the momentum going now and we’re on a pretty good stretch after coming off that win against Powassan and everyone is feeling good.”
Solinger was named as the team’s new captain on December 30th, 2017, after defenceman and former Thunderbirds captain Ryan Mulligan was traded to the Blind River Beavers.
“It’s obviously an honour, we have a great group of guys,” concluded Solinger. “Everybody’s got each others back in our room and it’s awesome.”
Tristan Cicchello (power play) and Lucas Theriault had the other goals for the Thunderbirds.
Austin Heinrich had his first career multi point game, setting up two goals while Camaryn Baber also chipped in with two assists and extended his point scoring streak to six games.
Robert Calisti, Bradon Caruso, Braden Robbins and Brendan Miller all chipped in with one assist each.
Eric Schuch, who got the start in net for the Thunderbirds, earned the win by making 13 stops, but had to leave the game at the 15:53 mark of the second period due to an injury.
Brandon Gordon, who replaced Schuch in net for the rest of the night, turned aside all 9 shots directed his way.
Timmins goaltender Eric Jackson gave up 4 goals on 18 shots before being replaced in net by Tyler Masternak, who then gave up 1 goal on 11 shots the rest of the way.
The Thunderbirds will be in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan next Friday at 7:30 p.m. for the first game of a home and home series against the Soo Eagles at Pullar Stadium.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)