Photos: Justin Cairns
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – The Soo Thunderbirds got a goal in each period, including the game-winner, from Michael Chaffay to send them on their way to a 4-1 victory over the Soo Eagles Friday evening in a robust Game 3 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division Final at Pullar Stadium.
The result gives the T-Birds a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven match-up, heading into Game 4 Saturday at 7 p.m., back at Pullar Stadium.
It took the visiting Thunderbirds just 34 seconds to begin the scoring Friday as Kelsey Ouellet put a pass over to Cooper Foster, who moved in on top of Eagles’ starter Ryan Gilmore, and quickly ripped a shot into the left-hand corner to begin the game with a bang.
A free-wheeling and physical remainder of the first period saw the two teams trade opportunities and saw the Thunderbirds capitalize once more to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
That came about at 15:47 as Chaffay took a pass from teammate Kaden Dundas, then used an Eagles’ defender as a screen before snapping a shot under Gilmore’s glove from inside the left circle.
Moving to the middle stanza, the Thunderbirds’ power play went to work three and a half minutes in to the session, to put them up by three, as Chaffay banged in his second of the night from the right side when the puck came his way from behind the net.
The home side’s best chance to get on the board came just past the mid-way mark of the contest as they used some crisp passes on a three-on-one, in close on T-Birds’ goalkeeper Noah Zeppa, but a final attempt sailed wide.
Pressing hard to get at least one before the period came to a close, the Eagles did just that with just under four minutes to go as Zachary Briskey whipped in a bouncing puck, off a Sam Holy attempt from the point, while stationed to the left of Zeppa.
In the third, Chaffay helped secure the road triumph, during a late man advantage, as he waited patiently along the goal line, looking to make a pass, then spun late and zipped one short side with under five minutes to play to complete a natural hat trick.
That wrapped up the night’s scoring as the Ontario Soo moved to a win away from advancing to the NOJHL championship series.
The Thunderbirds have also won 25 straight games, featuring seven so far in the playoffs, as well as their final 18 regular season contests.
NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds @ Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 3-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 3 Eagles 1
Game 2: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 3 (OT)
Game 3: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 1
Game 4: Saturday, April 23 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 5*: Monday, April 25 @ Thunderbirds (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Wednesday, April 27 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 7*: Friday, April 29 @ Thunderbirds 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)