By Matt Stefano
After picking up their 39th victory on Monday, February 8th against Espanola, the Soo Thunderbirds were looking to hit the 40 win plateau for the second time in franchise history on Saturday night as they took on the Elliot Lake Wildcats from the Essar Centre.
A pair of goals by the T-Birds in the first period was good enough as they went on to blank the Elliot Lake Wildcats 2-0 on Essar Centre ice.
Minesing, Ontario native Connor Ryckman made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and first one in front of his home crowd.
“It feels great,” said Ryckman. “It’s not just an individual effort, it’s a team effort. I thought the boys were cool together and it pulled through.”
Since signing with the T-Birds back in January, the 2012 14th round pick of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts, now has 7 wins, 1 loss and 2 shutouts through 8 games played with the Soo, along with a 1.61 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
“It’s definitely a nice journey,” continued the T-Birds goaltender. “It’s something new for me and new experiences are always fun. I have to keep a sharp edge, so it’s definitely a big step for me and I’m proud to be here.”
With the win, the T-Birds also extended their perfect home record to 22 straight games along with clinching first place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division.
“I thought the game went very well,” the Colts prospect said. “I kept everything simple, I didn’t try to do too much. Especially when your team is keeping everything on the outside and it’s definitely a lot easier.”
The T-Birds, who now have a perfect 22-0 record on Essar Centre ice, will play a home game against the Soo Eagles on Monday, February 15th on Family Day at 7:00 p.m. from the Pullar Stadium.
“We’re obviously going to do our best to get a win there,” concluded Ryckman. “Obviously it’s not the Essar Centre, but we want to keep our perfect home winning streak alive. We are going to go out there, give it 100% and do what we can.”
Jaren Bellini opened the scoring with his 23rd goal of the season at 10:15 into the first from Matt Busby. Joey Miller’s 13th goal made it a 2-0 game from Darian Pilon and Jake Behse with just 8 seconds to go in the first.
Wildcats goalie Al Rogers gave up 2 goals on 26 shots.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)