In a midweek match – up at the John Rhodes Centre in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario on February 22nd, the third place (37-11-1-1) Soo Thunderbirds hosted the eleventh place (9-41) Espanola Express in west division Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action.
Austin Kozluk sinks the Thunderbirds opening goal to give the Soo a 1 – 0 lead with a pass from veteran forward Zach Senecal 2:33 into the second period. 36 seconds before the halfway mark of the period, Gage Stephney gives the Soo a 2 – 0 lead at the 9:24 mark of the second with Nick Smith and Mike Winn adding the assists. Senecal slides the puck from his backhand past Express netminder Logan Sawka to increase the Thunderbirds lead to 3 – 0. Matt Caruso and Kozluk drew the helpers on Senecal’s goal at 15:41 of the middle stanza.
Connor Tessier brings Espanola within two at 16:13 of the second with Riley Smith and Dan Siddock adding the contributors. At 10:25 of the third and from his knees, Caruso fires the Soo’s fourth of the contest with Kozluk and Senecal registering the assists. With 2:48 left in the game, rookie Nick Smith finds the back of the Express net for the Thunderbirds fifth of the game to give the Soo their 28th win of the season. Kaidan McDonald and Jake Behse set up Smith’s goal. Thunderbird goaltender Dougie Newhouse had 23 saves in the Soo’s 5 – 1 win over Espanola.
Check out Thunderbird vs Express photo gallery (coming soon).
The ninth place Wildcats will be the next opponents for the Thunderbirds when the Soo enters the Centennial Arena on February 25th.