Thunderbirds win away from NOJHL title



Release Date: Friday, April 17, 2015

Thunderbirds win away from NOJHL title

COCHRANE – A pair of first period tallies proved to be the only goals of the night as the Soo Thunderbirds blanked the Cochrane Crunch 2-0 Friday in Game 5 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy at the Tim Horton Event Centre.

With the decision the Thunderbirds now lead the best-of-seven set 3-1 and will have an opportunity to capture the NOJHL title Sunday as Sault Ste. Marie hosts Game 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Essar Centre.

The Soo got on the board quickly in this one as following a Brandon Grandinetti dump in and a Matthew Mitchell shot towards the goal, Devin Shell redirected the puck past Cochrane’s Brett Young from just off the side of the net to put the visitors in front at 2:20.

With the two sides skating four players aside, Sault Ste. Marie went  up a pair with 7:14 left in the opening stanza as Brett Jeffries stuffed one in following a scramble in front of the Crunch goal.

Earning one of the assists on the Jeffries effort was T-Birds defenceman Owen Headrick, who extended a current league-best consecutive-game point streak to nine in succession.

Cochrane’s best opportunity to beat Soo netminder Mario Culina came during a late man advantage opportunity in the middle session, but the Soo stopper made back-to-back big stops first using his left pad to thwart a Brandon Plourde point shot before diving across and making a solid glove save on Henry Berger moments later.

Both goaltenders continued to keep the opposing clubs at bay as Culina and Young stymied shooters the rest of the way with the Thunderbirds prevailing in the end and moving to within a win of a league championship.

Culina turned aside all 28 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the postseason as he improved to 5-0 in the playoffs while lowering his league-leading goals-against average to 0.91 while raising his NOJHL-best save percentage to .959.

Young was also solid for the Crunch, despite the defeat, as he finished with 38 saves on the night.

Soo Thunderbirds vs. Cochrane Crunch
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Cochrane 6 Soo 2
Game 2: Soo 8 Cochrane 0
Game 3: Soo 4 Cochrane 2
Game 4: Soo 2 Cochrane 0
Game 5: Sunday, April 19 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, April 21 @ Cochrane 7:30 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
Game 7*: Thursday, April 23 @ Soo 7:30 p.m. (T.B.A.)
*-if necessary