GALLERY: Thunderbirds strike 1st in series opener vs. Eagles

Photos: Bob Davies

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Getting a goal in each period helped send the Soo Thunderbirds on their way to a 3-1 triumph over the Soo Eagles Tuesday in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.

The regular season title-holding Thunderbirds were first to strike in the series as Kelsey Ouellet drove hard down the right wing, before making a power move to the net and managed to put the puck in before piling into Eagles’ starter Ryan Gilmore, as a scrum ensued at 14:13.

However, the goal stood and home side took a 1-0 lead into the opening intermission.

It was more Thunderbirds in the middle stanza as they intercepted a pass in their own zone and came out quickly in transition that saw Youssef Chaouachi fly down the left wing on a mini two-on-one before sliding a feed over to a hard-charging Brock Santa Maria, who slammed it into the open side at 13:56.

Given time and space on the first shift of the third, NOJHL MVP Cooper Foster wheeled out from the side boards and skated to the net where he ripped a shot high over the blocker of Gilmore to make it 3-0 T-Birds.

In the late going, the Eagles did dash Noah Zeppa’s shutout bid, with just 40 seconds left on the clock, as Coby Fox stuffed one in off a goal-mouth scramble as they were on the power play and also had their netminder out for a sixth skater.

That would be it though, for the night’s goal total, as the Thunderbirds won their fifth straight in the playoffs and 23rd in succession, dating back to the regular season.

The two teams are back at it Wednesday for Game 2 at John Rhodes in a 7 p.m. start.

NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds @ Soo Eagles
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Thunderbirds 3 Eagles 1
Game 2: Wednesday, April 20 @ Thunderbirds 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)

Game 3: Friday, April 22 @ Eagles 7:30 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)  
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)
*-if necessary