Coming off a 5 – 4 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League loss on December 15th to the third placewest division Blind River Beavers, the first place west division leaders, the (23-8-2) Soo Thunderbirds return to action 24 hours later in Sault Ste Marie when they played host to the sixth place east division (10-20-4) French River Rapids who lost 7 – 0 to the Soo Eagles on Friday evening at the Pullar Stadium.
Adam Kusior sank the opening goal 2:20 into the first for the Rapids with Christian Gaudreau and Jacob Romano adding the assists on French River’s goal. Brendan Miller evens the game 1 – 1 at 4:19 of the first with Kaidan McDonald and Robert Calisti setting up Miller’s tying goal for the Thunderbirds. 38 seconds into the middle stanza, McDonald finds the back of French River’s net for for the go – ahead goal with Noah Solinger and Miller drawing the contributors on McDonald’s goal. Romano fires the Rapids second of game for French River with Adrian Nicholas and Gaudreau notching the helpers on Romano’s tying goal at 8:17. Lucas Theriault sinks the Soo’s third of the contest to give the Thunderbirds a 3 – 2 lead with Braden Robbins and Alex Acosta adding the assists. With 4:58 remaining in the period, French River’s Alex Paul sends the Rapids into the second intermission even at 3 – 3 with Stephen Calisti and Connor Loft registering the helpers at the 15:02 mark of the second.
Camaryn Baber and Steven Bellini set up the Thunderbirds fourth of the game 5:05 into the final period on a Nick Smith power play goal. On a Soo power play, Bellini and Baber drew their second assists of the period on Robert Calisti’s goal at 6:14 of the third to increase the lead to 5 – 3. Max Lightfoot finds French River’s Levi Siau for the Rapids to pull the visitors within one at 9:12 of the period. Alex Acosta slides the puck past French River netminder Andrew Rocha to add to the Soo’s lead at 13:57. Theriault and Robbins had the assists on Acosta’s goal. Scoring his second of the game, veteran forward Nick Smith gives the Thunderbirds a 7 – 4 win over the Rapids at 14:30 of the period with rookies Nolan Ford and Calisti adding the helpers. Soo goaltender Eric Schuch turned away 23 of 27 shots in the Thunderbirds 24th win of the season.
After 20 days off of regular season action for the 2017 NOJHL Christmas break, the Thunderbirds will face the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners on January 5th in their first game of an east division road swing. Game time will be 7:30 p.m.