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GALLERY: Chaouachi gets OT winner as Thunderbirds edge Eagles

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Youssef Chaouachi’s second goal of the game, coming 2:44 into overtime, was the difference as the surging Soo Thunderbirds won for a ninth straight time with a 5-4 victory over the Soo Eagles Saturday in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League contest at Pullar Stadium.

Taking the lead on the night’s first power play Colin Handy put the Eagles in front at 7:30 when he hammered a one-timer from the point that clipped off a Thunderbirds’ defenceman and changed direction enough to elude goalkeeper Kolton Bourret.

Countering with an equalizer, Jackson Truchan steered one in from the left of Eagles’ starter Reid Ramsay to tie it at 17:29.

The visitors then took the lead before the intermission via a Daniel Beaupre effort in the final minutes as he chipped in a rebound off a Ranon Joseph rush.

A man advantage in the early stages of the second stanza helped hosts draw even thanks to Kenny Belanger Jr., who put one in from a sharp angle while situated to the right of the net.

That saw Belanger collect a point for a fifth straight contest.

On the power play to begin the third helped the Thunderbirds go up 3-2 as fortunate bounce off a skate went right to Joseph in the right circle where he had ample time to whip in his first NOJHL goal before Ramsay could get across his crease.

The Eagles did come back to tie it as Alex Freund was there to jam in a Lane Janssen point shot that hit off the end boards and came quickly back in front at 6:01.

Regaining the lead with eight minutes to go, Chaouachi picked the low right-hand corner from the left side late into a man advantage opportunity.

Battling back to force overtime with an extra attacker, Belanger bagged the trying tally with 68 seconds remaining in regulation as he worked himself free in front and deposited a diving back hand from the top of the crease.

In the end though, the T-Birds prevailed while skating three aside in OT as Chaouachi made a dash into the Eagles’ zone where he fired in the game-winner from the high slot past a screened Ramsay to end it.

The result sees the Thunderbirds maintain their winning ways and raise their record to 23-9-2-1.

In defeat the Eagles picked up a point as they went to 16-13-3-1 overall.