Photos: Helene Rancourt
BLIND RIVER, Ont. – A well-balanced offensive effort Friday night by the Soo Thunderbirds sent them on their way to convincing 6-2 victory over the Blind River Beavers in the fifth game of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at the Blind River Community Centre.
The outcome sees the defending NOJHL champions take the best-of-seven affair 4-1 as they now move on to meet the Greater Sudbury Cubs in the West Division final.
Sault Ste. Marie had the best chance to opening the scoring, 12 minutes in off an odd-man rush, but Blind River netminder Charlie Burns came across to stymie Jackson Truchan.
Countering on the next shift, the Beavers bagged a goal moments after a big pad save by the Thunderbirds’ Landon Miller, only to see Matthew Green put the rebound back in front that was swatted in by Caleb Minns into the open side.
Answering with an equalizer less than two minutes later, the Soo’s Anton Petrovsky wheeled down the left wing and whipped in his initial NOJHL playoff marker to help send the two teams to the dressing room knotted at 1-1 after one.
In the second period, the T-Birds capitalized on an early turnover, which resulted in Youssef Chaouachi firing one through Burns from the left circle.
Adding another, the Soo went up by two as they clicked on the power play and saw Justin Mauro take a cross-ice feed from Brock Santa Maria and rip it bar down into the top right corner at 11:24.
A costly giveaway by Burns in the final moments of the frame saw Dharan Cap knock the puck down on a harmless looking play and saw him spin and deposit a shorthanded, close-range effort with just six seconds left to make 4-1 Thunderbirds after 40 minutes.
Pressing the pace early in the third, Blind River got closer when Joshua Thompson set-up Daniel Vasic in the slot, who went upstairs on Miller at 2:43.
Another turnover with six minutes to play helped the Soo secure the series, with Michael Chaffay benefitting and converting from between the circles to put the guests back up by three.
After some late-game shenanigans, the Thunderbirds’ Alex Remenda finished things off on a Soo man advantage effort to round out the scoring.
NOJHL West Division semifinal
Blind River Beavers vs. Soo Thunderbirds
Game 1: Thunderbirds 6 Beavers 3
Game 2: Thunderbirds 5 Beavers 4
Game 3: Thunderbirds 4 Beavers 1
Game 4: Beavers 3 Thunderbirds 2 (OT)
Game 5: Thunderbirds 6 Beavers 2
Soo wins best–of–seven series 4-1