Media Library Photo: Bob Davies
ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. – A three-goal night by Michael Chaffay helped send the Soo Thunderbirds on their way to an eventual 7-2 decision over the Espanola Express Sunday evening in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League neutral-site affair at Centennial Arena.
On the power play to commence the contest due to an Espanola warm-up violation, Sault Ste. Marie needed just 37 seconds to open the scoring as Cooper Foster chipped in a loose puck to the left of Express starter Patrick Boivin.
The Thunderbirds then added another, after successfully handling a man-down disadvantage themselves, when Brock Santa Maria sent Chaffay darting down the ice on a breakaway where he roofed a backhand at 14:15.
Heading to the middle frame, the Soo would extend their lead to three nearly six minutes in off a solid forecheck that helped Kenny Belanger Jr., get set-up in front where he lifted in his fifth goal of the season, on a backhanded effort.
Boasting the NOJHL-lead in man advantage markers, the Thunderbirds tacked on their 40th of the season deep in the period as Chaffay stuffed in the rebound off an Andrew Gibson blast from up high.
Espanola did get on the board in the final minute in the period when Alexander Christopoulos ripped a shot into the right corner after another Express player fanned on one in front that slid back to the Espanola forward.
Going to the third, Chaffay capped off his hat trick 45 seconds in as his attempt was initially stopped by Colby Ramsdale, who had entered the contest after the fourth Soo marker, but he could not control it as the disk fluttered over his shoulder and rolled into the net.
After Atley Gringorten tipped in a Joshula Rumolo attempt from the point to get the Express closer, the Thunderbirds came right back and tallied twice less than a minute apart and chase Ramsdale and see Boivin return to the Espanola net.
Their sixth marker came after Gibson was allowed to walk out from behind the net and then lift one into the top left hand corner.
Then, Tyson Doucette used his extended reach to tuck in his club’s seventh of the evening to help put the game away.
The Soo then had one final chance to add another as Dharan Cap was awarded a penalty shot in the waning moments but his deke attempt slid just wide of the right post.
Soo netminder Nolan Chartrand was credited with the win while Boivin meanwhile suffered the loss, giving up four against with Ramsdale allowing three in just over six minutes of work.