SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A pair of Cooper Smyl goals, including the game-winner, helped send the Soo Thunderbirds to a 4-2 triumph over the Blind River Beavers in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action Thursday evening at John Rhodes Community Centre.
A back and forth opening 20 minutes saw Sault Ste. Marie notch the lone tally of the period, late in the session, as Smyl was the recipient of solid rush down the left wing boards, and a feed in front, by Kurtis Foster, which allowed Smyl to neatly tuck-in a back hand past the outstretched leg of Blind River netminder Wyatt Courchaine.
On the power play to commence the middle stanza, the home side added to their lead 40 seconds in when Connor Toms, at the top of the point, placed a perfect pass over to a waiting Cameron Dutkiewicz in the left face off circle where he promptly cranked a one-time blast that flew past the blocker, short side, on Courchaine.
Down a skater near the midway mark of the match-up, Noah Boman won a race down the ice to the puck where he skated around the net and fired a crisp cross-crease feed to Smyl, who was left with a tap in, to make it 3-0 for the Thunderbirds.
The Soo kept coming and tacked on another at 10:40 compliments of an Andrew Malek marker from the right of the goal, which was helped along via the efforts of Russell Oldham and Rogers.
A two-man advantage in the final frame helped Blind River dash Alex Bugeja’s shutout bid with just over 11 minutes to play.
That tally came off the stick of Jacob Kelly, who wired one into the top left corner from the same side, as buried his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Still on the power play, the visitors struck again with Thomas Michaud banging in a rebound from close range off a Kelly attempt on net.
With a chance to pull to within one in the late going, Kelly was sent in alone on a breakaway but his deke left was denied on a splendid right pad save by Bugeja.
A couple of other chances were stymied after that by the Soo stopper as his efforts helped secure the home ice victory.
Shots on goal on the night finished 43-39 in favour of the Beavers with Bugeja picking up the win and Courchaine the defeat.
The teams will now head to Blind River for a pair of contests this weekend at the Community Centre.
Game time Saturday is slated for 7 p.m. while Sunday’s affair will get underway at 4 p.m.
Both games can be seen online via HockeyTV.com.
Game Photos: Bob Davies