Photos: Helene Rancourt
BLIND RIVER, Ont. – A five-goal first period outburst and a trio of tallies on the night by Jackson Truchan sent the Soo Thunderbirds past the Blind River Beavers 6-3 Thursday in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at the Blind River Community Centre.
Notching the night’s opening marker, three minutes into the contest, the Beavers’ Gavin Rocha began a play in his own end, then darted up ice to take a pass from Jesse Dupuis, before dishing it off to a hard-charging Caleb Minns, who slammed his chance into the open corner of Sault Ste. Marie starter Landon Miller.
The Thunderbirds came right back however to tie it as Ethan Novello and affiliate Callum McAuley worked a cycle in the corner before putting a shot towards the target that was tipped in by Alex Remenda for his first NOJHL playoff marker.
Building on that, the Soo went up 2-1 at 5:50 of the period, Truchan beat Blind River netminder Gavin Disano as he finished off a give-and-go with Dharan Cap.
It was more Thunderbirds during a power play when defenceman Kaden Dundas sent a rising wrist shot from the left circle into the top right corner.
The T-Birds continued their early outburst when Cap collected a puck up high and fed it across the ice to Truchan, who was left with an open net to deposit his second of the stanza.
This resulted in the Beavers making a goaltending change and saw Charlie Burns enter the game, but the Soo greeted him just 11 seconds into his initial league postseason appearance as Justin Mauro forced a turnover behind the net and got it to Cap, who buried his in-close opportunity to make it 5-1.
Getting one back before the intermission, the home side’s trio of Dupuis, Rocha and Minns clicked once more, with the latter lifting in his second of the night.
Moving to the middle frame, the Beavers pulled to within two after Rocha forced a turnover near the Soo blueline that was eventually snapped in by Dupuis, with additional help from Minns.
Cap did ring one off the crossbar in the final moments of the second, as he almost added another point, but the two teams went to break seeing the Soo up by two after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Thunderbirds held firm in handling a lengthy two-man advantage Blind River had midway through the frame.
Securing the road victory in the latter stages of the contest saw Truchan benefitting from a giveaway, which allowed him to skate in on Burns where he completed his hat trick by going five-hole for an unassisted effort at 15:38 in rounding out the scoring.
The two teams are back at it Saturday at 7 p.m. with Game 2 in Blind River.
NOJHL West Division semifinal
Blind River Beavers vs. Soo Thunderbirds
Game 1: Thunderbirds 6 Beavers 3
Game 2: Saturday, March 25 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 3: Monday, March 27 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5*: Friday, March 31 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 6*: Saturday, April 1 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 4 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Soo leads best–of–seven series 1–0
“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel