SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Tristan Cicchello goal from the left point 11:06 into the first overtime was the decider as the Soo Thunderbirds pulled out a 4-3 victory over the Soo Eagles Saturday in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Game 2 in this best-of-seven goes Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. back at John Rhodes C.C.
The hometown Thunderbirds got the early jump on the Eagles when Spencer Van Tiem notched his initial NOJHL playoff marker 3:10 into the contest.
Moving to the second period, the visitors struck quickly in the session to knot the affair at 1-1 as William Casey scored at 1:42.
Answering right back, the Thunderbirds went back on top 64 seconds later thanks to a Nolan Ford effort.
It continued to go back and forth from there as the Eagles drew level once more as Nick Techel beat Brandon Gordon in the Thunderbirds’ net at 6:52.
They then took their first lead five minutes later on Brendan Blair’s first league playoff goal.
Another quick tally saw the home side tie it with Robert Calisti collecting his initial postseason marker at 1:04 compliments of a man advantage chance.
It then stayed tied through the remainder of regulation and into OT.
Early in the first extra session, the Thunderbirds` Nick Smith was awarded a penalty shot after being obstructed en route to the net, but he was foiled by Eagles` goalkeeper Carter McPhail to keep things going.
With play continuing, Cicchello would be the hero later on as he snapped a high shot from the left point through a screen that sailed past McPhail to end it.
Gordon finished with 31 saves to record the win while McPhail saw 33 shots fired his way in the narrow setback.
West Division semifinal
No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 3 (OT)
Game 2: Monday, March 19 @ Thunderbirds 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 3: Wednesday, March 21 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 4: Friday, March 23 @ Eagles 7:30 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 5*: Saturday, March 24 @ Thunderbirds 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, March 26 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game7*: Wednesday, March 28 @ Thunderbirds 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
*- if necessary
Photos courtesy of James Egan’s Sports Photography