Friday night’s game was a battle for second place in the NOJHL’s West Division as the Soo Thunderbirds took on the Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Thunderbirds and Beavers, who both entered Friday night’s game with 60 points each, also entered Friday night’s game with identical 28-10-2-2 records.
Despite outshooting the Beavers 41-24 overall, the Thunderbirds dropped a 4-3 decision to the Beavers on Friday night and have now dropped to third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
“We didn’t show up for the first two periods,” said Soo Thunderbirds affiliate player Candon O’Neill, who was called up by the Thunderbirds for Friday night’s game against the Beavers. “We dominated the last ten minutes of the game, but at the end of the game that’s not enough.”
The Thunderbirds, who were also up against the top penalty killing team in the entire league, failed to score on their power play opportunities as they went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.
“I thought with the amount of power play chances we had tonight, we could’ve at least buried one or two,” O’Neill said. “Obviously we had a lot of shots on net, but we still didn’t come out with the win, so that means we need to do better.”
With the Beavers leading the Thunderbirds 4-1 almost halfway through the third period, the Thunderbirds would then get a pair of goals just under eight minutes apart, which turned the Beavers three-goal lead into a one-goal lead.
At the 9:55 mark of the third period, it would Thunderbirds forward Wyatt Marlow getting his 17th goal of the season from Justin Mauro and Ranon Joseph, which cut the Beavers lead to 4-2.
Then, with Thunderbirds goaltender Kolton Bourret on the bench late in the game for an extra attacker, it would then be Thunderbirds defenceman Kaden Dundas scoring his 7th goal of the season from Wyatt Marlow and Youssef Chaouachi, which cut the Beavers lead to 4-3.
“We had a really good week of practice and we were prepared to come into this arena (John Rhodes) tonight and play against a really good hockey team,” said Blind River Beavers head coach Kyle Brick, whose team has now moved into sole possession of second place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings. “Our players are standings watchers like I am and they knew what was on the line tonight and they found a way to get it done.”
Despite being outshot 6-0 just over halfway through the opening period, it would be the Beavers getting on the board first just 10:47 in, courtesy of Matthew Green’s 9th goal of the season from Evan Fraccaro, which gave the Beavers a 1-0 lead.
Green’s goal, also came on the Beavers first shot on net.
“I don’t put a lot of stock into shot count too much,” said Brick, whose team took a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes, despite being outshot 10-3 overall in the first period. “Some of the Thunderbirds shots were perimeter, and when we got an opportunity, we put it in the back of the net. Greener (Matthew Green) was optimistic for us and he did a good job getting the lead for us.”
After trailing the Beavers 1-0 after twenty minutes of play, the Thunderbirds then tied things up just 41 ticks into the second period, as leading scorer Dharan Cap would notch his 22nd goal of the season from Jackson Truchan, making the score 1-1.
The Beavers would then retake the lead just 4:30 later, as former Soo Thunderbirds forward Jake Kovacs would notch his 10th goal of the season from Joshua Thompson and Nic Brady, which put the Beavers up by a score of 2-1.
Kovacs’s 10th goal of the season, also turned out to be his 99th career NOJHL point.
“Jake (Kovacs) has been our engine ever since he came to Blind River, and when he goes, we go,” Brick said. “He scored a nice goal tonight against his former team (Soo Thunderbirds) and I’m happy for him.”
Caleb Minns had a power play goal and an assist for the Beavers on Friday night while Gavin Rocha also got on the scoresheet with a power play goal of his own.
Minn’s power play goal, came at the 17:27 mark of the second period, which at that time made the score 3-1 for the Beavers heading into the third.
Rocha’s power play goal, then came at the 5:14 mark of the third period, which at that time put the Beavers up by three.
Beavers forwards Evan Fraccaro and Joshua Thompson both chipped in with two assists each while defenceman Andrey Manov set up one.
Thunderbirds netminder Kolton Bourret gave up 4 goals and 24 shots in the loss while Beavers goaltender Gavin Disano made 38 saves, including 21 in the third period for the victory.
Disano, who made 38 saves on Friday night, was also named second star of the game.
“Gavin has been making big saves for us all year and that’s our expectation of him,” Brick said. “He also got the team jacket tonight for our MVP of the game, and he’ll definitely wear that jacket with pride.”
With the win, the Blind River Beavers have now improved their record to 29-10-2-2, good for 62 points.
They have also hopped over the Thunderbirds for second place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings.
The Thunderbirds, who are now sitting in third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings, will be right back in action on Saturday, February 4, when they will take on the Soo Eagles at the John Rhodes Community Centre, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
SIX STRAIGHT ROAD WINS
Friday night’s game was a historic night for the Blind River Beavers, as they picked up their sixth straight road win, which set their new franchise record for their longest road winning streak during a regular season.
Their previous record was five, which they had back in the 2017-2018 season.
On Friday night, Soo Thunderbirds defenceman Ranon Joseph extended his point-scoring streak to ten games, thanks to his assist on Wyatt Marlow’s goal at the 9:55 mark of the third period.
Joseph, who extended his point-scoring streak to ten games, also became the first Soo Thunderbird defenceman to have a ten-game point-scoring streak during a regular season since David Radke (2013-2014).