Photos: Bob Davies
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A seven-goal surge, including a pair by Michael Chaffay, helped lead the Soo Thunderbirds to a 7-4 triumph over the French River Rapids Saturday in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action at John Rhodes Community Centre.
French River’s Spencer Hughes did put the visitors in front, just past the four-minute mark of the contest, as he redirected a Griffin Simpson attempt from the left of Sault Ste. Marie starter Noah Metivier.
Countering with an equalizer at 14:36, Thunderbirds drew level when Brock Santa Maria drove wide to the right and took Rapids’ netminder Justin DiLauro with him before cruising behind the net and then providing Alfred Rotiroti with a wide-open net to cash in on.
A two-man advantage helped the Soo take the lead moments later as Andrew Gibson used a give-and-go with Cooper Foster before whipping in his 15th tally of the season, which leads all NOJHL defencemen.
Still up a skater, the Thunderbirds kept clicking and scored again with Russell Oldham banging in a rebound after a couple of other solid opportunities.
Carrying the play, the Soo took their two-tally cushion into the second stanza where they extended it near the midway portion of the contest when Kelsey Ouellet whipped one high over DiLauro’s blocker to make it 4-1 for the Soo.
The Rapids countered by responding just 19 seconds later to get right back into it as Chase Lefebvre buried a rebound off a Levi Siau chance.
In the third, French River clicked on an early power play to pull within one thanks to Dominik Godin slamming in his 22nd, just 54 seconds into the session.
Back and forth they went, with the T-Birds’ Foster lifting in his 11th while parked on the top of the crease with 17:29 to play.
Adding to the offensive outburst, the Soo’s Chaffay chipped one in from his knees during a goal-mouth scramble.
Lefebrve notched another for the Rapids, during a man advantage, but Chaffay put one into an empty net for the Thunderbirds in the late going to secure the home ice victory.
The result saw Metivier pick up the win while DiLauro suffered the loss.
Game action for the Thunderbirds resumes Wednesday as they host the rival Soo Eagles in a 7 p.m. start at John Rhodes while French River is right back it Sunday afternoon as they head to Blind River for a 1:30 p.m. encounter with the Beavers.