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Thunderbirds back in winning form

After the Soo Thunderbirds dropped a 3-2 decision at the hands of the North Bay Skyhawks on Friday night, they had the opportunity to get back on the winning track with a game against the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League's second place team, the
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After the Soo Thunderbirds dropped a 3-2 decision at the hands of the North Bay Skyhawks on Friday night, they had the opportunity to get back on the winning track with a game against the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League's second place team, the Sudbury Northern Wolves.

Despite a goal by the Northern Wolves in the opening minute of the game, the Thunderbirds picked up a 6-3 victory over the Northern Wolves to give themselves an eight point cushion over the Northern Michigan Black Bears in the NOJHL's Western Division.

It looked as though it was going to be a long night for the Thunderbirds as Jesse Graham gave the Wolves a 1-0 lead 18 seconds into the game when he cut around defenceman Ryan MacKay and beat Thunderbirds starter Casey Mapes.

After that goal, the period was all Thunderbirds. D.J. Jelitto tied the game at 7:35 when he beat Ethan Gazdic with a power play goal by knocking in a rebound off a shot by Alex Butkus, who was named the games first star.

Just under six minutes later, Matt Dias gave the home team a lead they would never relinquish as he stuffed a puck past Gazdic at 13:18 to send the game into the first intermission with the Thunderbirds leading 2-1. The Thunderbirds outshot the Northern Wolves in the period by a 19-3 count.

In the second period, Eric Sargent moved in on a 2-on-0 with Nick Tombari and chose to keep the puck and subsequently roofed the puck on Gazdic to increase the lead to 3-1. Butkus then scored his 17 goal of the season at 10:43.

Tom Vernelli made the score 5-1 at 14:32 beating Gazdic, who would leave the game after surrendering the goal making way for Paul Pidutti, who went the rest of the way for the Northern Wolves.

The Wolves responded to the goaltending change as Kyle Doherty cut the lead down to 5-3 at 15:48.

In the third, the Thunderbirds made an attempt to take a stranglehold on the game when Aaron Anderson beat Pidutti at 2:19 to make the score 6-2 Thunderbirds, but the Northern Wolves didn't roll over as Kyle Hope cut the lead back down to three at 2:38. That was as close as the Northern Wolves would get though as the Thunderbirds held on for the 6-3 win.

Thunderbirds coach Jim Capy was pleased with the outcome of the game and with the way his team bounced back from Friday night's loss against North Bay.

"Good teams have the ability to bounce back after a tough loss (like the North Bay game)," Capy said. "We talked about that before the game, but we're pleased."

Capy added that his team needs a "killer instinct" and that they have shown it at times but need to have that instinct more consistently during games.

"You always want to have that killer instinct," Capy added. "We haven't developed it yet. We were opportunistic in the second and third. We've done it in flashes but we need to put it together for 60 minutes."

In goal, Mapes was sharp for the Thunderbirds stopping 26 Sudbury shots on the night. Gazdic and Pidutti combined to stop 34 shots in the loss.

The Thunderbirds next game is on Thursday night when they travel to Chelmsford to take on the Rayside Balfour Sabrecats. Next home action for the Birds is on Feb. 20 when the Manitoulin Wild pays a visit to the John Rhodes Community Centre in a 7:30 start.






Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at FoxSports.com in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
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