The battle for top spot in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division continues to be a tight one as teams near the halfway point of the regular season.
Following action on Sunday afternoon, eight points separate the top five teams in the division.
Among those teams is the Soo Thunderbirds, who picked up a narrow 4-3 win over the Espanola Paper Kings at the John Rhodes Community Centre Sunday.
With the victory, the Thunderbirds moved into a tie for third in the division with the Soo (Mich.) Eagles.
With 35 points, the Thunderbirds and Eagles sit one point behind the Blind River Beavers for second and five points back of the Greater Sudbury Cubs for top spot.
Following the weekend slate of games, the Thunderbirds have two games in hand on the Cubs, Beavers, and Eagles.
Espanola sits fifth in the division with 32 points.
On Sunday, a goal by Adam Kukko with 2:44 to go in the second period held up as the game-winner for the Thunderbirds.
The goal was Kukko’s first of the season.
Jackson Truchan paced the Thunderbirds offensively with a goal and two assists in the victory.
Truchan currently leads the Thunderbirds in scoring with 14 goals and 40 points and sits sixth in the league in scoring.
James Legler added a pair of helpers for the locals.
Alex Remenda and Kelsey Ouellet rounded out the scoring for the Thunderbirds.
Goaltender Kolton Bourret stopped 29 shots to pick up his 10th win in 11 starts this season. The veteran netminder has now won nine straight starts.
Spencer Horgan had a goal and an assist for Espanola in the loss. Graydon Guthrie and Blake Peters-Davey also scored.
Goaltender Jake Marois stopped 34 shots.
With Sunday’s win, the Thunderbirds have won three straight games and eight of their past 10.
The team returns to action with a pair of divisional games on the road next weekend.
The team will travel to Blind River to face the Beavers on Saturday night before taking on the Elliot Lake Vikings on Sunday afternoon in Elliot Lake.
The Thunderbirds will take a record of 16-5-2-1 into the weekend.