SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Cooper Smyl had an impressive goal in regulation and notched the lone marker in the shootout to help propel the Soo Thunderbirds to a 6-5 victory over the Blind River Beavers in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action Friday evening at John Rhodes Community Centre.
The hometown Thunderbirds opened the scoring six minutes into the contest as Noah Boman sent Brock Santa Maria into the Blind River zone where he drove hard to the net from the right wing and tucked an attempt under Beavers’ netminder Gavin Disano.
Answering back before the first period was complete, the visitors drew level on a Jacob Kelly effort a couple of shifts later.
Kelly started the play by forcing a turnover at his own blueline before getting it over to Nicholas Jameus, who sent a perfect flip pass ahead to his teammate, where he made no mistake on a breakaway making a couple of quick dekes before finally cutting left and stuffing in his 10th of the season past the outstretched pad of Sault Ste. Marie starter Scott Young.
A goal-filled middle stanza saw Sault Ste. Marie regain the lead at 5:12 as Boman fed Caleb Wood in the slot, who in turn buried a quick shot from the slot.
After that, Blind River erupted for a trio of tallies, in a six and a half minute span, to go up 4-2.
Dre Leismeister began the outburst as he jammed in his first NOJHL goal after having a couple of whacks at the puck from in close.
The Beavers then went in front while shorthanded as Kelly saucered a perfect feed over to Devin Mauro on a two-on-one that was finished off with a snap shot that went upstairs on Young.
Wheeling out of their own zone, the guests tacked on another as they completed an odd-man rush with a give-and-go that left Matt Cato with a tap-in for his initial league tally.
A late power play helped the Thunderbirds draw to within one as Cameron Dutkiewicz cranked one from the point that sailed into the top left hand corner to make it a 4-3 game after 40 minutes.
Some nice individual work by the Soo’s Smyl netted the equalizer as he worked his way out of a corner off a spin move and ripped a shot from the right side that eluded Disano 5:34 into the third.
Santa Maria then collected his second of the night while the clubs skating four aside, he took a Boman pass, came in and powered his way past a Blind River defender then picked the short side corner.
A late man advantage helped the Beavers knot the affair with under three minutes to play as Kelly fired a low blast from up high that was neatly redirected in by Cato.
In extra shots, Smyl scored by skating in then moving hard to his left where he lifted a rising attempt into the back of the net.
The Thunderbirds’ Young stood tall for his squad, stopping all three chances he faced in the shootout to collect the win.
Shots on net in 60 minutes of play finished 42-35 in the Soo’s favour.
The two teams will renew acquaintances Sunday afternoon in a 2 p.m. matinee at the Blind River Community Centre.
This contest can be viewed online via HockeyTV.com.
Game Photos: Bob Davies