ESPANOLA, Ont. – The surging Soo Thunderbirds skated to their eighth straight Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League victory Sunday with a 7-5 triumph over the Espanola Express in an afternoon matinee at the Regional Recreation Complex.
With the result, the Thunderbirds moved into first place in the overall NOJHL standings with 44 points on a 22-5-0-0 record while also holding three games in hand on the second place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
Espanola did open the day’s scoring nine and a half minutes into the contest on Chase Lammi’s seventh goal of the season with assists going to Matthew Reynolds and Mitchell Lee.
A couple of power play markers helped Sault Ste. Marie tie it then take the lead as Steven Bellini and Gage Stephney both converted with the man advantage.
Tanner Mayne added another for the Soo late in the first as they took a 3-1 cushion to the intermission.
It was more Thunderbirds six minutes into the middle stanza with Nick Smith supplying his 17th of the campaign.
Down a man midway through frame Kaidan McDonald struck shorthanded to put the visitors up by four before Zachary Matyasik got one back for the Express during a power play at 15:17 to make it 5-2 after 40 minutes.
Coming out quickly to begin the third, Espanola pulled to within two 29 seconds into the final stanza on Diego Pasula’s fifth of the season.
Noah Boman got that back for the Soo though just a minute later as he extended a consecutive game point streak to seven in the process.
McDonald and Espanola’s Jack Schwartz, with his first in the league, exchanged tallies later in the session before Lukas Lyszyk rounded out the scoring for the Express at 14:15 to cap off a three-point afternoon.
Bellini and Stephney had two assists to go with their goals for the Thunderbirds as did teammate Max Techel, who chipped in with a pair of helpers as well.
Soo starter William Anderson faced 33 shots in picking up the win while Espanola goalkeeper Joel Rainville made 25 in defeat.