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Lumberjacks strike 7 times to even series with Thunderbirds

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Hearst Lumberjacks notched a franchise-best single-game seven playoff goals Sunday as they went on to dismantle the Soo Thunderbirds 7-3 in Game 2 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series at John Rhodes Community Centre.

With the result, this best-of-seven match-up is now tied a win apiece heading into Game 3 Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Claude Larose Arena.

It was Sault Ste. Marie that pressed the pace early, but were denied by both Hearst starter Nicholas Tallarico and a pair of attempts that rang off the goal post.

Then after another Thunderbirds chance that was stopped by Tallarico, the Lumberjacks turned in transition and came out on a two-on-one that resulted in Max Johnson feeding Bradley Golant who put it in to extend a point streak to five in succession.

Carrying the one-goal cushion into the middle stanza, the visitors added another as Daniel Fisher intercepted a clearing attempt then came in on an odd-man rush and got it over to Sebastien Doucet who outwaited Soo netminder Colin Ahern and notched his second of the playoffs at 3:11.

Hearst had an opportunity during a power play to add to their lead a couple minutes, but a shot sailed wide and sent the Thunderbirds on a two-on-one where Nick Smith saucered a pass over to Kaidan McDonald, who one-timed it off the cross bar and in to put the home side on the board with a shorthanded marker.

However, the guests answered midway through the frame compliments of Max Griffioen, who scored to give him points in each of the past half dozen contests he has appeared in.

Not done there, the Lumberjacks’ Blaise Arkle connected on the power play before Cameron Clark continued the outburst 48 seconds later to chase Ahern in favour of back-up William Anderson.

The onslaught continued late in the second as they finished off their scoring barrage with Troy Daniels firing an attempt towards the goal from the right point that was deftly redirected by Max Johnson parked on the top of the crease.

Getting one back with eight seconds left in the period with some hard work from Noah Solinger and Brendan Miller helped Tyler Malpass finish off a goal-mouth scramble.

Each side would trade tallies in the third to round out the night’s scoring Lucas Theriault connecting on the power play with helpers going to Noah Boman and Steven Bellini.

For Theriault and Boman the Soo duo extended point streak to four consecutive outings.

Wrapping things up was Griffioen who added his second of the night at 15:40.

Tallarico finished with 26 stops to record the win.

Ahern suffered the loss, allowing five against on 24 shots while Anderson handled eight of 10 in 27 minutes of relief.

The NOJHL winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, April 30 – May 4, in Cochrane.

All contests in the NOJHL final will be streamed live online at HockeyTV.com.

NOJHL Final
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Best-of-seven series tied 1-1
Game 1: Soo 3 Hearst 2
Game 2: Hearst 7 Soo 3
Game 3: Wednesday, April 17 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 4: Thursday, April 18 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 5: Saturday, April 20 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, April 22 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
*-if necessary