SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Brendan Miller power play marker with 3:10 left in the third period proved to be the difference as the Soo Thunderbirds went on to defeat the Blind River Beavers 4-2 Saturday night in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Game 2 goes Sunday back in Sault Ste. Marie at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s tilt saw the Thunderbirds notched the lone tally of the first frame compliments of Nolan Ford at 14:44.
The home side then went up by two early in the middle session on a Lucas Theriault goal.
Blind River cut into the deficit at 8:25 of the period as Ryan Peck and Ryan Mulligan combined to set-up Riley Nadeau for his first of the playoffs.
Peck then drew the Beavers level late in the stanza as he tied it at 17:28.
The score stayed even until the latter stages of regulation as Miller notched the game-winner with the Soo up a skater.
Heading to the final minute, Blind River pulled their netminder, Garret Boyonoski, in favour of an extra attacker, but it was Thunderbirds’ captain Kaidan McDonald that iced it with an empty netter with 19 seconds remaining to round out the night’s scoring.
Spencer Van Tiem dished out two assists to aid the winner’s cause.
Soo starter Colin Ahern finished with 20 saves to pick up the victory while Boyonoski handled 37 of the 40 attempts he saw in defeat.
West Division semifinal
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 4 Blind River Beavers
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 4 Beavers 2
Game 2: Sunday, March 17 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 3: Tuesday, March 19 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 4: Friday, March 22 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 5*: Sunday, March 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, March 26 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 7*: Wednesday, March 27 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Rod Aubertin – SSM Photos