NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE
Release Date: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Thunderbirds take offensive-paced opener over Eskimos
SAULT STE. MARIE – A Gavin Burbach short handed goal late in the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Soo Thunderbirds slipped past the Abitibi Eskimos 5-4 Saturday evening in game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League semifinal at Essar Centre.
Game 2 goes Saturday back at Essar Centre at 7:30 p.m.
Both teams supplied plenty of offense in the opening period with the clubs combining for seven goals, including four by the Thunderbirds.
Sault Ste. Marie jumped out to a 3-0 lead putting a trio of markers past the Eskimos’ Brody Wagner just 63 seconds apart courtesy of Anthony Miller, Nicolas Tassone and Eric Hillock.
After Abitibi’s Brenden Locke got the Eskimos on the board with a power play effort at the 13-minute mark, Matthew Mitchell answered right back for the Thunderbirds on the next shift.
The visitors got themselves back into the contest before the first was over getting tallies from Zach Innes at 14:06 and Landon Hiebert during a late man advantage as he deflected a Erik Robichaud point shot past Brian Kment in the Soo net just as the period was coming to a close.
Abitibi pulled even with their third power play tally of the night, which came off the stick of Hiebert at 14:16 of the second.
The Thunderbirds regained the lead with 24 seconds left in the middle session striking short handed as a falling Darcy Haines spun and sent a cross-ice pass that was tapped in by Burbach at the side of the crease.
Both team settled down defensively in the third as neither club would add any more markers.
Owen Headrick of the Thunderbirds and Robichaud of the Eskimos each had two assists on the night.
Final shots on goal were 40-22 in favour of Sault Ste. Marie with Kment improving to 5-0 in the postseason in picking up the win while Wagner suffered the loss.
Also of note, the league also confirmed the dates at times of games 5 and 6 in this series, if they are necessary.
Game 5 would go next Saturday back at Essar Centre while game 6 is scheduled for Monday, April 7 at Jus Jordan Arena in a pair of 7:30 p.m. starts.
The league is just waiting for confirmation of a date of a seventh and deciding contest should it be required as it will be based on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds second round Ontario Hockey League schedule with the Erie Otters.
The NOJHL’s other semifinal series also resumes Sunday at 7:30 p.m. as the Espanola Rivermen entertain the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the Regional Recreation Complex in game 2 of that best-of-seven affair. The Gold Miners won the opener 2-1 at home Friday.
NOJHL SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE/RESULTS:
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 4 Abitibi Eskimos
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Soo 5 Abitibi 4
Game 2: Sunday, March 30 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 2 @ Abitibi 7:30 p.m. (Jus Jordan)
Game 4: Thursday, April 3 @ Abitibi 7:30 p.m. (Jus Jordan)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 5 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, April 7 @ Abitibi 7:30 p.m. (Jus Jordan)
Game 7*: T.B.A. @ Soo (Essar Centre)
No. 2 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners vs. No. 3 Espanola Rivermen
Gold Miners lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Kirkland Lake 2 Espanola 1
Game 2: Sunday, March 30 @ Espanola 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday, April 1 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday, April 3 @ Espanola 7:30 p.m.
Game 5*: Saturday, April 5 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m.
Game 6*: Monday, April 7 @ Espanola 7:30 p.m.
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 9 @ Kirkland Lake 7:30 p.m.