Thunderbirds storm back to take West final opener



Release Date: Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thunderbirds storm back to take West final opener

SAULT STE. MARIE – The Soo Thunderbirds battled back from an early two-goal deficit and rode the strength of four third period tallies to upend the Elliot Lake Wildcats 5-2 Thursday evening in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division final series at Essar Centre.

Game 2 of this best-of-seven set goes Saturday at Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake with the opening face-off set for 7:30 p.m.

The visiting Wildcats got off to the start they wanted grabbing a 2-0 lead after one period of play.

Aaron Carmichael put Elliot Lake on the board midway through the session as he connected on the power play at 10:24.

They then went up a pair 82 seconds later with D-man Kyle Salmon supplying his third of the playoffs.

Sault Ste. Marie got right back into it in the opening minute of the second, on a transition from the Wildcats blueline, as Matt Pinder tapped in a crisp cross-ice pass by Boris Katchouk into the open right side past Elliot Lake netminder A.J. Smith.

It stayed that way into the final frame as the Thunderbirds continued to press for the equalizer and were eventually rewarded as Katchouk tied it with 11:54 to go as he snapped one past Smith from the left face-off circle following a win off the draw by Brett Jeffries.

The home side kept coming and took their first lead of the night on the next shift as Soo blueliner Owen Headrick powered into way into the Elliot Lake zone and corralled his own rebound and ripped in the game-winner past a sprawled Smith from in close.

Pinder added another at 12:01 as the Thunderbirds offensive attack rolled along to make it 4-2.

The Soo then finished off their come from behind victory with a nifty three-way passing play that was capped off by Anthony Miller in the slot as he completed the work of Eric Hillock and Jaren Bellini with under four minutes to go to round out the scoring.

Katchouk, Jeffries and Hillock all finished with two assists apiece in the T-Birds triumph.

Brian Kment finished with 22 stops on the night to pick up the win and improve to 3-0 in the playoffs.

Smith was peppered with 42 shots, including 21 in the third period barrage, in defeat for the Wildcats as his postseason record dipped to 4-3.

Game 1 of the NOJHL East Division kicks off Friday at 8 p.m. as the Cochrane Crunch host the Powassan Voodoos at the Tim Horton Event Centre.

NOJHL West Division final
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 4 Elliot Lake Wildcats
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Sault Ste. Marie 5 Elliot Lake 2
Game 2: Saturday, March 28 @ Elliot Lake 7:30 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
Game 3: Monday, March 30 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 4: Wednesday, April 1 @ Elliot Lake 7:30 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 4 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, April 6 @ Elliot Lake 7:30 p.m. (Centennial Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 8 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
*-if necessary