CHELMSFORD, Ont. – Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Eric Schuch was stellar stopping all 32 shots he faced in posting a 2-0 shutout of the Rayside-Balfour Canadians Friday evening in Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division Final at Chelmsford Arena.
Sault Ste. Marie picked up the night’s only offensive tallies in the first period.
Lucas Theriault started with the eventual game-winner with a man advantage effort halfway through the session.
The Thunderbirds added another at 14:02 with Bradon Caruso finishing the work Mark Tassone and Nick Smith, who added his second assist of the session.
From there it was a goaltender’s battle with Schuch and Brayden Lachance in the Rayside-Balfour net stopping every shot fired their way.
The win was Schuch’s fourth straight playoff victory for the surging Thunderbirds.
Lachance meanwhile faced 32 attempts in defeat for the Canadians.
Game 2 in this best-of-seven goes Saturday back in Chelmsford at 7 p.m.
West Division Final
No. 1 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds
Soo leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Soo 2 Rayside-Balfour 0
Game 2: Saturday, March 31 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 4 @ Sault St. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Thursday, April 5 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 4 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 9 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game7*: Wednesday, April 11 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
*- if necessary
Photos courtesy of Rob and Caleigh Fera: www.sudburylight.ca