SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Nick Smith goal with 7:19 remaining in regulation broke a 2-2 deadlock and helped send the Soo Thunderbirds to a 3-2 come from behind triumph over the rival Soo Eagles Wednesday evening in Game 7 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at John Rhodes Community Centre.
The win gives the Thunderbirds three straight victories as they claim the best -of-seven series 4-3 and they will now move on to meet the Rayside-Balfour Canadians in the West Divisional Final, which will get underway Friday night at Chelmsford Arena at 7 p.m.
Wednesday’s contest saw the Eagles notch the lone tally of the opening 20 minutes as Jacob Palmerio scored on the power play at 15:24.
The visitors then upped their lead with another man advantage marker just over eight minutes into the middle session as Hayden Clark collected his second goal of the playoffs.
Spencer Van Tiem started the Thunderbirds comeback five minutes later with a power play tally of his own before teammate Robert Calisti tied things up at 15:54.
Moving on to the final frame, Smith completed the rally by beating Eagles’ netminder Carter McPhail with the difference maker.
Mark Tassone dished out two assists to aid the Thunderbirds’ offensive cause.
Eric Schuch turned in another solid effort in net for the home side making 31 saves to record his third straight victory in the series.
McPhail meanwhile faced 22 attempts in the season-ending defeat for the Eagles.
West Division semifinal
No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds win best-of-seven series 4-3
Game 1: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 3 (OT)
Game 2: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 3: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 0
Game 4: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 0
Game 5: Soo Thunderbirds 3 Soo Eagles 0
Game 6: Soo Thunderbirds 2 Soo Eagles 1
Game 7: Soo Thunderbirds 3 Soo Eagles 2
Photos courtesy of James Egan’s Sports Photography