CHELMSFORD, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds saw Camden Findlay intercept a pass deep in Rayside-Balfour Canadians territory early in the second period and scored what would be the eventual game-winning marker in a 3-1 triumph in Game 4 of their West Division Final Thursday at Chelmsford Arena.
This means the Thunderbirds now lead the best-of-seven affair 3-1 heading into Game 5 Saturday at home in a contest which will be held at GFL Memorial Gardens beginning at 7 p.m.
Sault Ste. Marie opened the scoring 5:09 into Thursday’s match-up as they broke out their own zone with Avery Rebek putting a cross-ice feed over to Brendan Miller on the left side who fired one high off the shoulder of Canadians’ netminder David Bowen and in.
Rayside-Balfour answered late in the frame with a breakaway shorthanded marker from Kyle Liinamaa, who intercepted a pass at his own blueline, then darted in alone on Soo starter Colin Ahern where he made a quick move to his left and lifted in a backhander to knot the score at 1-1.
Snagging an errant pass well in the Canadians zone, the Thunderbirds went back on top early in the middle session as Findlay made the most of his opportunity and snapped a shot over Bowen’s blocker from close range to put the guests up 2-1.
Forcing a puck free, the Soo added another midway through the frame after skating in on a two on one that resulted in the RBC goalkeeper stopping a Rebek snap shot, but the rebound went right to Spencer Van Tiem who collected his fourth of the playoffs.
Neither side would score the rest of the way as the visitors held firm to secure the road victory.
Ahern was solid throughout, finishing with 34 saves to record the win for the Thunderbirds, while Bowen suffered the setback while making 38 stops in defeat.
The winner of this series will advance to meet the Hearst Lumberjacks in the NOJHL Final after they completed a four-game series sweep of the Powassan Voodoos to earn the East Division crown.
NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Soo 4 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 4 Soo 3 (OT)
Game 3: Soo 6 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 4: Soo 3 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 5: Saturday, April 6 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (GFL Memorial Gardens)
Game 6*: Monday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 10 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)