Photos: Helene Rancourt
BLIND RIVER, Ont. – A solid, three-goal, second period helped the Soo Thunderbirds put the Blind River Beavers on the brink of elimination after they pulled out a 4-2 decision Sunday in Game 3 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at the Blind River Community Centre.
The victory gives the Thunderbirds a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven match-up and they’ll have a chance to close it out Monday when the two teams meet again at 7 p.m., back in Blind River.
Going in front for the first time in the series, Blind River did open the scoring 16:45 into the proceedings when Meguire Naughton used Kyle Caron, who carried the play into the Thunderbirds’ zone, as a screen and whipped a shot past Sault Ste. Marie starter Noah Zeppa for his second of the series.
Coming back to tie it just past the eight-minute mark of the middle stanza, the Soo saw Dharan Cap skate into Beavers’ territory and get it over to Russell Oldham, who in turn fed Samuel Lake, as the latter drove to the net, made a quick deke and lifted the equalizer over the pad of goalkeeper Patrick Boivin.
The visitors then took the lead later in the session when Mason Chitaroni was the recipient of a clearing attempt, which allowed him to fire a shot that Boivin stopped, but Youssef Chaouachi was right there to slam in the rebound at 16:33.
Picking up a power play late in the frame, NOJHL MVP Cooper Foster finished off the work of teammate Brock Santa Maria who skated around the net and teed him up for a one-timer off the post and in, making it 3-1 Soo after 40 minutes.
In a chippy third period, the Thunderbirds put the game away in the late going, with another man advantage effort, that saw Andrew Gibson bury one through a screened Boivin from the right circle to secure the road victory.
Blind River’s Jacob Kovacs did convert with a minute to go as he jammed one in with his side up two skaters as he beat Zeppa while parked off to the side.
However, that would be it offensively before time expired as the Soo skated away with the result with Zeppa getting the victory while Boivin suffered the setback.
NOJHL West Division semifinal
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Blind River Beavers
Soo leads best-of-seven series 3-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 3 Beavers 2
Game 2: Thunderbirds 3 Beavers 0
Game 3: Thunderbirds 4 Beavers 2
Game 4: Monday, April 11 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 13 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Thursday, April 14 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 7*: Saturday, April 16 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)