GALLERY: Thunderbirds blast Canadians to even series

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds used the strength of five power play goals to help them dismantle the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 8-2 Thursday night in Game 4 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.

That means this best-of-seven series is now tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Chelmsford Arena.

Sault Ste. Marie started strong grabbing the night’s opening goal 89 seconds in as Tyler Malpass notched his first of the playoffs.

Rayside-Balfour came back to tie it five minutes later compliments of a Brady Maltais marker.

On the man advantage later in the frame the Canadians took the lead with Kyle Liinamaa collecting his seventh of the postseason at 16:18.

The Thunderbirds countered in the middle frame to knot the affair then go in front as Nick Smith leveled the proceedings at 8:33 before Mark Tassone’s second of the playoffs at 16:11 made 3-2 after 40 minutes.

The Soo then struck five times in the back half of the final frame to put the contest away.

Kaidan McDonald and Noah Solinger supplied power play goals in quick order before Braden Robbins added to onslaught with an even strength effort a couple shifts later.

They then wrapped up the one-sided result with extra-man tallies from Malpass and Lucas Theriault to put the finishing touches on the romp.

Thunderbirds’ defencemen Robert Calisti and Steven Bellini both had big nights offensively as the duo dished out four assists apiece.

Shots on goal favoured the Soo by 51-16 count as they rolled to victory.

Eric Schuch was the winning goaltender while Brayden Lachance suffered the loss.

NOJHL Playoffs

Series H
West Division Final
No. 1 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds
Best-of-seven series tied 2-2
Game 1: Soo 2 Rayside-Balfour 0
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 3 Soo 2 (OT)
Game 3: Rayside-Balfour 4 Soo 3
Game 4: Soo 8 Rayside-Balfour 2
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  James Egan’s Sports Photography