Trailing by three midway through the third period with a short bench, coming away with a victory looked like a steep uphill climb.
Trailing 4-1 midway through the third period, the Thunderbirds scored four times in just under eight minutes to beat the Greater Sudbury Cubs 5-4 Sunday afternoon in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
Samuel Lake’s goal with 1:54 to go in regulation was the winner as the Thunderbirds capped off the comeback after falling behind when the Cubs scored three times in just over four minutes to take the lead earlier in the period.
Lake’s game-winner came as Colby Arbour sent the puck to the net from the left faceoff circle and Lake redirected it past Cubs goaltender Joel Rainville.
The goal was Lake’s third of the period as the rookie forward got the comeback ball rolling with just over nine minutes to go when he scored on a rebound of a shot by Kelsey Ouellet that was stopped by Rainville.
After Arbour cut the Sudbury lead to one at 13:41 of the period, Lake tied the game with 3:17 to go in regulation when he scored on his own rebound after being stopped initially in close.
“We had lots of energy in the first two periods for sure,” said Thunderbirds coach Cole Jarrett. “We lost a few bodies in the second period (due to injuries) and we had to simplify it. We started to use the middle of the ice and we were able to break their pressure.”
“Then it was getting to the net and Sam being opportunistic and being in the right spot,” Jarrett added. “It was great to see him get rewarded for going to those spots.”
Jarrett said it was tough keeping the energy level up in the game as the team lost players due to injury as the game wore on.
“It was something that built in the last 10 minutes,” Jarrett said. “You get one and, on the bench, the energy was positive. The guys kept saying the right things like ‘Keep getting pucks to the net and we’ll get another.’ Fortunately for us tonight we got those bounces. (Against Blind River on Friday), maybe we didn’t deserve those bounces and tonight we stuck with it and, having a short bench, we were able to bang a few home.”
Defenceman Kaden Dundas had the other goal for the Thunderbirds, opening the scoring early in the second period.
Pineshish Whiteduck got the Cubs on the board with 12.5 seconds to go in the second period, scoring his third of the year after a defensive zone turnover by the Thunderbirds.
Pierson Sobush put Sudbury ahead just 2:06 into the third, jumping on a loose puck in the slot and beating Thunderbirds goaltender Noah Zeppa glove side to make it 2-1.
Cole Quevillon, on a shot from the left faceoff circle through traffic increased the Cubs lead to 3-1 1:41 later and Kyler Campbell made it 4-1 on a shorthanded effort at 6:20 of the third.
Zeppa made 34 saves for the Thunderbirds while Rainville made 30 for the Cubs.
The Thunderbirds will take a 2-1-0-0 (win-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss) record into a return match with the Cubs on Thursday night at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury on Thursday night.
The game opens a stretch of three games in four days for the Thunderbirds that will see the team host the Espanola Express on Oct. 2 before facing the Blind River Beavers in Blind River on Oct. 3.