BLIND RIVER, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds picked up three first period tallies, including two on the power play, then held off a late Blind River Beavers rally to pull out a 5-4 victory Saturday in Game 2 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at the Blind River Community Centre.
The outcome gives the Thunderbirds a 2-0 series lead, as they now return home to John Rhodes Community for the next contest in the best-of-seven affair, which goes Monday at 7 p.m.
Sault Ste. Marie got the scoring going eight and a half minutes into the contest as Jackson Truchan sent a play up ice that a Blind River player could not contain, which allowed Dharan Cap to drive to the net and fire a shot upstairs on Beavers’ netminder Charlie Burns.
The Thunderbirds power play then went to work to help them extend their lead when Brock Santa Maria put a play through the crease from a sharp angle that somehow managed to find its way through Burns.
Up a skater once more, the T-Birds tacked on another late in the period as Truchan took an opportunity to the net and sent it in front where Justin Mauro snapped it into the top left-hand corner at 19:39.
Blind River got one back early in the middle frame with Daniel Vasic being credited for his initial playoff marker in a Beavers’ jersey at 3:48.
Benefiting from a loose puck that the Thunderbirds could not clear, Gavin Rocha swooped in at the blueline then went to the net where he ripped a high shot, short side, on the Soo’s Landon Miller just past the half-way point of the proceedings.
Pushing a play ahead after a draw in their own zone, the T-Birds came out hard in transition to make it 4-2 when Michael Chaffay sent a pass across that was steered in by a hard-charging Youssef Chaouachi at 13:12.
Going back up by three before the second intermission, the Soo used some crisp movement on a man advantage that saw Truchan feed Kaden Dundas moving in from the point where he guided it by Burns.
In the third, Blind River made it interesting with a Jacob Kovacs shorthanded marker after being set-up in the slot by Jack Robinson, who snagged a loose puck in the corner, with 3:14 to play.
Getting Burns out late for an extra attacker, the Beavers pulled to within one in the final minute as Vasic took a cross-ice feed from Rocha and went upstairs for his second of the night.
They then had one final quality chance to tie it just before time expired, but just missed as the Soo held on for the road win.
NOJHL West Division semifinal
Blind River Beavers vs. Soo Thunderbirds
Game 1: Thunderbirds 6 Beavers 3
Game 2: Thunderbirds 5 Beavers 4
Game 3: Monday, March 27 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Friday, March 31 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 6*: Saturday, April 1 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 4 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Soo leads best–of–seven series 2–0