By Matt Stefano
After having their four-game winning streak snapped back on Thursday night, losing 4-3 to the Rayside Balfour Canadians at Chelmsford Arena, the Soo Thunderbirds returned home to kick off the Thanksgiving weekend on Saturday night against the Elliot Lake Wildcats, who were the top team in the NOJHL.
Heading into Saturday night’s game, the Wildcats were also the highest scoring team in the West Division, with 44 goals forth.
Thunderbirds rookie goaltender Eric Schuch turned aside 29 shots to pick up his first career NOJHL shutout as the Soo blanked Elliot Lake 3-0 at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
“I thought the guys played really well in front of me,” said Schuch. “They kept the shots to the sides, so I didn’t really have too many hard shots to save. They did a really good job clearing the pucks and the rebounds out in front of the net, so it helped us get the win.”
Schuch, who is a native of Holland, Michigan, spent last season with the Fox Motors U18 club, where he had a 2.99 goals against average and a .888 save percentage through 15 games played.
Since signing with the Thunderbirds during the offseason, the 18 year old has recorded 4 wins and 1 loss through 5 games played and currently has the fourth lowest goals against average (2.00) in the NOJHL.
“It’s kind of a little bit of a jump, but not too big,” continued Schuch. “It’s nice to have Brendan Miller on the team, I played against him and with him on a couple of teams. It’s nice to have someone you know on the team.”
Schuch’s teammate Brandon Gordon, who is in his third season between the pipes for the Thunderbirds, currently has the league’s third best goals against average (1.83).
“It’s really nice to have him on the team as the older guy,” concluded Schuch. “He’s shown me the ropes around the team, the league, and everything. He’s really helped me out, he’s a really good guy and I love him.”
Kaidan McDonald’s power play goal at the 17:08 mark of the first period, proved to be his first career game winning goal.
Brendan Miller and Nick Smith scored just 51 seconds apart in the second period to give the Soo a 3-0 lead after two.
Noah Solinger, Camaryn Baber and Ryan Lawrence had an assist each for the Thunderbirds.
Wildcats goaltender Parker Simpson gave up 18 goals on 21 shots in the loss.
The Thunderbirds will now conclude Thanksgiving weekend on Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. against the Cochrane Crunch at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
(Photo credit to Rod Aubertin)