The power of a quick start was the difference for the Soo Thunderbirds on Sunday afternoon.
The Thunderbirds jumped out to a 4-0 lead through 20 minutes and posted a 5-3 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League victory Sunday over the Espanola Express at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.
The early outburst included goals by Camaryn Baber and Lucas Theriault before the game was five minutes old.
Mark Tassone and Ryan Lawrence also scored for the Thunderbirds in the opening period. Tassone finished the day with a goal and an assist, giving him five goals and 10 points in six games since returning to the team via a trade with the Powassan Voodoos.
Tanner Mayne also scored for the Thunderbirds. Nick Smith assisted on three goals to give him points in seven-straight games. The sophomore forward has 13 points in that stretch.
Thunderbirds goaltender Eric Schuch stopped 26 shots.
Joel Grandbois had a goal and an assist while Jace Pitawanakwat and Makenzie MacMillan also scored for Espanola.
Express netminder Jacob Hutchings made 26 saves.
The win improves the Thunderbirds record to 18-7-2-0 and temporarily moved the team into top spot in the NOJHL’s West Division, one point up on the Blind River Beavers. The Beavers would reclaim the spot Sunday night with a double-overtime win over the Rayside Balfour Canadians in Chelmsford. The Thunderbirds hold six games in hand on the division-leading Beavers.
Meanwhile, the Express fall to 1-25-1-0.
The Thunderbirds return to action on Dec. 2 on the road against the Blind River before returning home for a game the following afternoon against Espanola.