By Matt Stefano
After sweeping the Blind River Beavers in an easy four straight back on March 17th to end the West Division Semifinals matchup, the T-Birds will now get set to take on the Elliot Lake Wildcats in the NOJHL West Division Finals. The West Division’s second seeded Wildcats are coming off a six game West Division Semifinal series win over the Sudbury Nickel Barons. After losing the first two games, the Cats came back with four straight wins along with shutting the Barons out three times in the first round.
Heading into this series, T-Birds rookie forward and Sault, native Matt Caruso, leads the NOJHL with eleven post season goals including three consecutive hat tricks in the first round vs Blind River and is just one goal shy of tying the team record for most goals in a single playoff season which is held by Jeff Rainville (2003), Matt Caria (2005) and Nick Minardi (2009). T-Birds second year goaltender and Sault, native Brian Kment, who is also the third goalie for our Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds, comes in with the post season’s best save percentage at a perfect 1.000% along with a perfect goals against average of 0.00. The twenty year old also became the first T-Bird goalie to record back to back shutouts in a postseason since 2004 Sarnia Sting eleventh round pick Ryan Dube did back on March 20th and 21st of 2009, along with becoming the first T-Bird goalie to record a shutout in an opening playoff game since current Northern Michigan University net minder Michael Doan did back on March 6th, 2011. Southlake, Texas native AJ Smith, comes into this series leading the NOJHL with three post season shutouts along with a .950 save percentage and a 1.83 goals against average. The twenty year old also leads the league in post season saves with 211.
During ten regular season meetings this year vs Elliot Lake, the Soo had won five times while losing twice in regulation and three in overtime and out scored the Wildcats 35-33 overall.
Regular season results:
L 5-2 on Sept 28th @ home (J. Miller 2 assists)
W 4-2 on Oct 4th @ home (Hillock 2 goals 1 assist)
W 6-3 on Oct 24th @ Elliot Lake (A. Miller 1 goal 1 assist)
W 3-2 OT on Nov 21st @ Elliot Lake (Brett Jeffries 2 goals)
L 3-0 on Nov 26th @ home
W 4-2 on Dec 21st @ home (Barbeau 1 goal)
W 5-2 on Jan 4th @ Elliot Lake (A. Miller 3 goals)
L 6-5 OT on Jan 16th @ Elliot Lake (Katchouk 2 goals 1 assist)
L 4-3 on Feb 13th @ Elliot Lake (Katchouk 1 goal 2 assists)
L 4-3 OT on Mar 6th @ home (Pinder 1 goal 1 assist)
The T-Birds will open up game one of the West Division best of seven finals series this coming Thursday, March 26th from the Essar Centre at 7:30. Admission prices are $13.50 am adult, $9.50 for seniors, students are $7.50 and kids are only $3.00.
Complete second round schedule:
Game 1: Thurs, March 26th @ 7:30 (Essar Centre)
Game 2: Sat, March 28th @ 7:30 (Centennial Arena)
Game 3: Mon, March 30th @ 7:30 (Essar Centre)
Game 4: Wed, April 1st @ 7:30 (Centennial Arena)
*Game 5: Sat, April 4th @ 7:30 (Essar Centre)
*Game 6: Mon, April 6th @ 7:30 (Centennial Arena)
*Game 7: Wed, April 8th @ 7:30 (Essar Centre)
* If necessary