Thunderbirds stay alive after blanking Eagles

By Matt Stefano

After dropping back to back 3-0 decisions against the Soo Eagles at the Pullar Stadium in game 3 on Wednesday and game 4 on Friday, the Soo Thunderbirds had their season on the line on Saturday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre as they were down 3-1 in the best of seven semifinal series.

On Saturday night, the Thunderbirds kept their season alive as they rebounded with a 3-0 victory of their own against the Soo Eagles in game 5 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series.

“We definitely got back to our game plan tonight,” said Thunderbirds rookie forward Camaryn Baber. “Playing at home in front of a packed rink really pumped us up.”

Rookie netminder Eric Schuch, who got his second straight start in goal for the Thunderbirds on Saturday night, made 27 saves for his first career playoff shutout and win.

“He’s been good for us all year,” continued Baber. “For him to to come in for Gord is not easy, but he’s obviously doing a great job and it’s helping us out.”

For the third straight game of this best of seven series, a goalie has been named first star of the game.

Eagles goaltender Carter McPhail earned first star of the game in game 3 and game 4 at the Pullar, before Thunderbirds netminder Eric Schuch earned the Subway first star of the game on Saturday night in game 5 at the Rhodes.

“I think this series so far has had both good goaltending and defence, but we definitely came to play defence tonight and shutdown their top guys,” continued Baber.

Baber, who finished second in team scoring during the regular season with 15 goals and 46 assists, scored a power play goal and an assist in his first playoff game played on Saturday night.

“Playing in my first junior playoff game definitely felt good,” continued Baber. “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but I battled back and played for the boys.”

The Thunderbirds, who are now down 3-2 in the best of seven semifinal series, will go back to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for game 6 on Monday night.

“We are excited,” concluded Baber. “It’s always fun to play at the Pullar. They have a great atmosphere and we are going to be ready.”

Kaidan McDonald and Mark Tassone (power play) had the other goals for the Thunderbirds while Robert Calisti, Noah Solinger, Spencer Van Tiem and Nick Smith all chipped in with one assist each.

Eagles goaltender Carter McPhail, who recorded back to back shutouts against the Thunderbirds on Wednesday and Friday, gave up 3 goals on 29 shots in Saturday night’s loss.

Game 6 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series will be on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)

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