SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Eric Schuch turned aside all 27 shots he faced to register his first Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoff shutout Saturday as he blanked the Soo Eagles 3-0 in Game 5 of their West Division semifinal at John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The victory also brings the Thunderbirds closer in the series as they now trail the best-of-seven affair 3-2 heading into Game 6 Monday night at Pullar Stadium at 7 p.m.
After a scoreless first frame, the Thunderbirds finally solved Eagles goaltender Carter McPhail, who allowed his first tally against in over 191 minutes of game action when Kaiden McDonald connected at 12:24 of the second stanza.
Up a man late in the session, the home side went up by a pair on a Camaryn Baber power play marker at 17:52.
The Thunderbirds then secured the triumph with another man advantage effort deep into the third as Mark Tassone rounded out the night’s scoring with four and a half minutes to go.
McPhail finished with 26 stops in defeat for the Eagles.
West Division semifinal
No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles
Eagles lead best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Thunderbirds 4 Eagles 3 (OT)
Game 2: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 3: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 0
Game 4: Eagles 3 Thunderbirds 0
Game 5: Soo Thunderbirds 3 Soo Eagles 0
Game 6: Monday, March 26 @ Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game7*: Wednesday, March 28 @ Thunderbirds 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
*- if necessary
Photos courtesy of James Egan’s Sports Photography