BLIND RIVER – Connor Toms’ goal, coming shorthanded with under five minutes to play proved to be the game-winner as the Soo Thunderbirds went on to defeat the Blind River Beavers 5-3 in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League matinee Sunday at the Blind River Community Centre.
Starting off a kick save by the pad of Sault Ste. Marie goaltender Alex Bugeja, the Thunderbirds drove out of their own zone where Caleb Wood powered down the left wing and fired a pass in front that was met by Avery Rebek, who notched his first marker of the season 3:33 into the contest.
It stayed that way until the middle stanza, when Blind River drew even via the power play.
Off a face off, Lucas Adams fed a pass in front to a waiting Jacob Kelly who in turn ripped a shot into the top left hand corner to knot the proceedings at 1-1 at 11:46.
The Soo countered eight minutes later to regain the lead as Michael Chaffay cruised down the right side before moving to the middle and wiring one upstairs over the blocker of Wyatt Courchaine in the Beavers’ net.
Answering again before the second period was complete, Blind River worked the puck free in the corner that allowed Kelly to set-up Jared Dupuis as he buried the equalizer from the left face off circle to send the teams to the intermission tied at two.
Picking up a man advantage to begin the third, the home side used some crisp passing by Kelly and Adams that set-up Noah Minns for the go ahead tally 40 seconds into the session.
Up a skater themselves later in the session, the Thunderbirds tied it as Cooper Smyl lifted one over Blind River netminder Wyatt Courchaine from the side of the goal for his second tally of the campaign.
Then with the hosts on a lengthy power play, it was the visitors who struck down a skater after a giveaway by a Blind River defender at his own blueline eventually resulted in Toms one-timing a blast from the right side with 4:07 to go play.
Later, with Courchaine out late for an extra attacker, Caleb Wood iced it for the Soo with an empty netter to round out the scoring.
Bugeja finished with 28 saves to record his club’s first victory of the season while helping his side pick up three of four points in the weekend home-and-home match-up.
Courchaine meanwhile stopped 24 shots in defeat.