NOJHL NETWORK MEDIA UPDATE
Release Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Caruso hat trick highlights Thunderbirds win over Eagles in series opener
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds began defence of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League title they won a year in impressive fashion as they got a hat trick from Matthew Caruso to help them soar past the Soo Eagles by a 9-3 count Saturday in Game 1 of their West Division semifinal at Essar Centre.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven set goes Monday at 7:30 p.m. back at Essar Centre.
The Thunderbirds came out flying and grabbed a 3-0 lead before the contest was five minutes old on markers by Matt Pinder, Caruso and Adam McPhail.
After Reed Gregory got the Eagles on the board at 12:44 of the first, the T-Birds answered that a minute and a half later on a Joey Miller effort to go up 4-1 after one period of play.
Michael Caruso upped the Thunderbirds cushion to four 45 seconds into the middle session as he connected during a man advantage opportunity.
Two more tallies by the home side just over two minutes apart later in the frame put the T-Birds in full control as Matthew Caruso and Pinder both found the back of the net.
Matthew Caruso completed his three-goal night 1:08 into the third before the Eagles countered with an even strength effort from Gregory and a shorthanded marker supplied by Roman Gaudet made it 8-3 with 11:48 to go.
The Thunderbirds would round out the scoring late in the contest with a late man-down marker from Miller to finish things off.
Brandon Grandinetti aided the T-Birds offensive cause by doling out three assists while teammates Jaren Bellini, Nathan Hebert, Brett Jeffries and Drake Pilon had two helpers apiece.
Gord Helmuth had a couple of assists for the Eagles.
Connor Ryckman made 16 saves to pick up the win the series opener.
Cam Bruggrabe started for the Eagles and suffered the loss while Jack Hickey entered in relief in the second period as the duo combined to face 44 shots in defeat.
West Division semifinal
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 4 Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 9 Eagles 3
Game 2: Monday, March 21 @ Thunderbirds 7:30 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 3: Wednesday, March 23 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 4: Friday, March 25 @ Eagles 7:30 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 5*: Sunday, March 27 @ Thunderbirds 2 p.m. (Essar Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, March 28 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 7*: Wednesday, March 30 @ Thunderbirds 7 p.m. (T.B.A.)
*- if necessary