By Matt Stefano
After concluding the regular season with a record of 36 wins, 16 losses, 3 overtime losses and 1 tie, the Soo Thunderbirds kicked off their 2018 postseason on Saturday night as they took on their cross-border rivals, the Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
This also marked the third consecutive year the twin Saults have met in the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series.
In the opening game of the playoffs, the Thunderbirds were minus a pair of members, including veteran defenceman Braden King, who was serving the first game of a five game suspension, and head coach John Parco, who was serving the first game of a three game suspension.
On Saturday night, the Thundebirds took game 1 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series as they defeated the Soo Eagles 4-3 in overtime.
“We worked hard and got all the lines rolling and somehow just got it done,” said Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Tristan Cicchello.
Cicchello scored his first career overtime goal at the 11:06 mark of the first overtime period.
“It felt really good,” continued Cicchello “It was at a great time and it set the pace for the rest of the series.”
Forward Spencer Van Tiem led the way offensively for the Thunderbirds with a goal and an assist.
Van Tiem scored his first career playoff goal on the Thunderbirds first shot on net at the 3:10 mark of the first period.
Nolan Ford and Kaidan McDonald (power play) had the other goals for the Thunderbirds while Tanner Mayne and Ryan Lawrence had an assist each.
Eagles forward Nick Techel, who was named the NOJHL’s best overall team player during the regular season, had a goal and an assist for his for his team on Saturday night.
Kobe Keller also had a two point game for the Eagles with a pair of assists.
Brendan Blair and William Casey had the other goals for the Eagles while Christian Bardarson, Jacob Palmerio and Jake Lamberty all had one assist each.
Thunderbirds second year forward Nick Smith had a penalty shot at the 1:02 mark of the overtime period, but did not score.
Eagles goaltender Carter McPhail gave up 4 goals on 33 shots in loss while Brandon Gordon made 31 saves for the Thunderbirds victory.
The Thunderbirds will now get set for game 2 of the NOJHL’s West Division semifinal series, which will be on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing because it seems to work,” concluded Thunderbirds rookie defenceman Tristan Cicchello.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)