Photos: Bob Davies
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Cooper Foster’s second goal of the game, coming 14:42 into overtime, gave the Soo Thunderbirds a dramatic 4-3 triumph over the Soo Eagles Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.
The outcome gives the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, heading into Game 3 Friday night at Pullar Stadium in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., which goes at 7:30 p.m.
The visiting Eagles caught a break in notching the night’s opening tally as a Thunderbirds defender lost an edge and fell, which allowed Tyler Culleton to skate in alone on goaltender Noah Metivier where he fired a shot high over his glove into the top right-hand corner at 6:49.
Coming right back though, the home side equalized just 21 seconds later thanks to NOJHL MVP Foster, who took a nice feed from Kelsey Ouellet and whipped in his third of the playoffs, by converting while coming in right on top of Eagles’ starter Gabe Rosek.
Taking the lead in the second stanza, the Thunderbirds went on top at 11:34 as Samuel Lake drove around an Eagles’ defenceman and sent a crisp pass over to a swift-skating Kaden Dundas, who pulled up and directed in the go-ahead marker.
Moving to the third, the hosts picked up a third on the night, off the stick of Michael Chaffay at 4:08 when he found himself alone in the slot and made no mistake by firing a shot that got by Rosek.
Getting one back with under seven minutes remaining in regulation, the resilient Eagles’ Jacob Swiatek went hard to the net as got enough of a feed in front from the corner to get it past a sprawling Metivier.
Then getting their goaltender out for an extra attacker with over two minutes to play, the guests capitalized as Brian Fiddes buried the equalizer while stationed at the top of the crease.
A late power play gave the Thunderbirds a couple of chances to end it in regulation, but they could not solve Rosek.
In the OT, the two teams traded chances with Ouellet ringing one off the post, eight minutes in, for one of the Thunderbirds’ better opportunities.
After the Eagles were thwarted on a number of plays as well, Foster won it for the T-Birds as he took a drop pass from Ouellet and skated hard to the net before taking it to his right and outwaiting Rosek prior to sliding in the game-winner, on a back hand, to help his team come away victorious for a sixth straight game in the playoffs, and 24th in succession, dating back to the regular season.
NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds @ Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 2-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 3 Eagles 1
Game 2: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 3 (OT)
Game 3: Friday, April 22 @ Eagles 7:30 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 4: Saturday, April 23 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 5*: Monday, April 25 @ Thunderbirds (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Wednesday, April 27 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 7*: Friday, April 29 @ Thunderbirds 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel