Thunderbirds clinch regular season title



Release Date: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014

Thunderbirds clinch regular season title

SUDBURY – A trio of games in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League Friday helped solidify things at the top of the standings as the Soo Thunderbirds clinched the NOJHL regular season title after a convincing 8-1 victory over the North Bay Trappers.

Two other contests on this night saw the Espanola Rivermen move back into third place in the standings with a 3-2 triumph in overtime vs. visiting Kirkland Lake while the Elliot Lake Bobcats dumped the Blind River Beavers 6-2 at home.

SOO THUNDERBIRDS 8 NORTH BAY TRAPPERS 1 – It was all Thunderbirds in this one as they wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NOJHL playoffs with the one-sided win over North Bay at Essar Centre.

The victory means Sault Ste. Marie will meet eighth place Blind River in quarter-final play in the opening round of the playoffs.

In Friday’s contest the Thunderbirds got two tallies apiece from Darcy Haines and Anthony Butorac in the romp.

Haines had the lone marker in the opening frame for the Soo, who blew it open with five goals in a span of three minutes and eight seconds in the middle session to go up by six through two periods of play.

Butorac supplied the first two efforts followed in quick order by Brett Jeffries, Gavin Burbach and Anthony Miller.

They tacked on two more in the third courtesy of Haines and Riley Bordin before North Bay’s Tyler Broderson dashed Brian Kment’s shutout bid with 10:41 to go to round out the scoring.

Haines and Butorac also added assists for three-point nights with Jaren Bellini chipping in with a pair of helpers to aid the cause.

Kment finished with 23 saves on the night in the win while Lucas Paulsen was peppered with 52 pucks in defeat.

ESPANOLA RIVERMEN 3 KIRKLAND LAKE GOLD MINERS 2 (OT) – A Blake Peavey goal midway through the first overtime was the difference as Espanola edged Kirkland Lake at the Regional Recreation Complex.

With the win the Rivermen moved past Abitibi into third spot in the standings and now hold a one point lead over the Eskimos while also having a game in hand.

Ryan Atwood opened the scoring for Espanola 6:28 into the second period only to see Kirkland Lake defenceman Dylan Rosen level the proceedings two minutes later with his fourth of the campaign.

Connor Gilmartin put the Rivermen back on top four minutes into the third only to see another Gold Miners’ D-man connect as Jonathon Langford forced OT with 6:23 left in regulation.

It was in the extra session that Peavey won it for Espanola as he finished off the work of Brandon Janke and Matthew Busby at 2:30 to give his side the extra point.

William King made 35 saves to register the victory for the Rivermen who fired 37 shots of Kirkland Lake’s Kenny Fitzgerald, who suffered the loss.

With the setback and Sault Ste. Marie’s win over North Bay in means Kirkland Lake will finish second overall and will take on either the Trappers or Sudbury Nickel Barons in round one of the playoffs.

ELLIOT LAKE BOBCATS 6 BLIND RIVER BEAVERS 2 – The Bobcats got a pair of goals and an assist from defenceman Bryan McFarlane to help lead the way in the triumph over Blind River at Centennial Arena.

McFarlane, who earlier in the day committed to attend the University of Windsor and play in the OUA for the Lancers in the fall, had his eighth multi-point night of the season for Elliot Lake in the contest.

The home side grabbed a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes with Jared Walker, Brett Wagner and McFarlane scoring for Elliot Lake and Tyson MacLeod countering for the Beavers.

Wagner notched his second of the evening with just 30 seconds remaining in the second as he struck on the power play to put the Bobcats up 4-1.

MacLeod added another for the visitors early in the final frame, but Brad Holman and McFarlane, during a man advantage, finished things off for the winners.

Affiliate Tristan Hanna finished with 25 saves to record the win in his first start for Elliot Lake.

Dylan Knox was pelted with 69 shots in a losing cause for Blind River.

League play resumes Saturday on two fronts, including a pivotal game between Abitibi and Espanola in Iroquois Falls, while North Bay heads to Blind River in a pair of 7:30 p.m. starts.