GALLERY: Thunderbirds drop Centennial Cup opener

ESTEVAN, Sask. – The Flin Flon Bombers (SJHL) surged to a three-goal lead and never looked back as they cruised to 6-1 victory over the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League champion Soo Thunderbirds Thursday in opening day action at the Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons.

Trading early chances, the opposing netminders were equal to the task with Sault Ste. Marie’s Noah Metivier and Flin Flon’s Cal Schell coming up big, including NOJHL MVP Cooper Foster being foiled on a breakaway in the first minute.

Collecting the game’s opening tally, the Bombers’ Jaxson Martens took a feed from a falling Gabriel Shipper and whipped a shot over Metivier’s shoulder to put the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League finalist in front at 13:36.

Continuing to press, Flin Flon added another three minutes later with Noah Kuzma stuffing one in front the right side, off a goal-mouth scramble, that saw the SJHL side generate a number of close-range chances.

Carrying their two-tally cushion into the middle session, the Bombers maintained their pace, and went up by three midway through the proceedings, via the power play.

That came about as Zak Smith found a streaking Jacob Vocker, darting in from the back door, with a crisp cross-ice pass that was quickly fired in from the left of Metivier.

Keeping the Thunderbirds in it, the Soo goalkeeper thwarted a trio of Flin Flon skaters who had clear-cut breaks as the clubs hit the second intermission with the Bombers holding a 3-0 edge.

In the third, the Soo came out with a purpose and got themselves on the board at 4:40.

That came about as Foster got the puck over to Kelsey Ouellet, who teed up Michael Chaffay, which allowed him to rip one into the top right-hand corner, on Schell, from the opposite circle.

However, picking up a man advantage right after that, Flin Flon quickly countered as talented defenceman Xavier Lapointe snapped a low shot from the right point that sailed past a screened Metivier.

Putting the game away, the Bombers converted on an odd-man rush that saw Jaeden Mercier get enough of an attempt that trickled just over the goal line.

Adding a sixth in the match-up, Brett Wieschorster put one in off a Soo player to secure the victory, and round out the scoring, half-way through the final frame.

Collecting player of the game honours for the Thunderbirds was D-man Andrew Gibson.

The Soo will be right back at it Friday as they take on the Maritime Junior Hockey League champion Summerside Western Capitals at 6 p.m. ET.

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Photo: Hockey Canada Images