A tough stretch early on turned into the difference as the Soo Thunderbirds opened up Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action on Friday night.
Leading 1-0, the Thunderbirds surrendered three goals in in a span of just over four minutes in the second half of the first period in what was eventually a 4-2 season-opening loss to the Blind River Beavers Friday at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
Michael Chaffay opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds early on, beating Blind River netminder Wyatt Courchaine 3:30 into the contest with the Thunderbirds on a two-man advantage.
Just past the midway point of the opening period, Blind River got on the board thanks to a goal by Teegan Dumont.
Dumont beat Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja on a point shot through traffic to tie the game at one with 8:35 to go in the frame.
Just 1:01 later, Blind River took the lead as Jared Dupuis deflected a point shot by Sam Davies past Bugeja to make the score 2-1 Beavers, the goal coming moments after a faceoff win by Dupuis deep in the Thunderbirds zone.
Sault product Nick Jameus would make it 3-1 Beavers with 4:24 to go in the opening period, beating the Sault netminder on a penalty shot.
Jameus broke in alone on Bugeja but was taken down by Sault defenceman Kaden Dundas. On the subsequent penalty shot, the Beavers forward went backhand to extend the Beavers lead.
The Thunderbirds cut the Blind River lead to one as Connor Toms beat Courchaine from the left side of the slot with 3:32 to go in the opening period.
Just under eight minutes into the second period, Blind River’s Lucas Adams capped off the scoring, beating a Sault defender in the right faceoff circle before going to the net and beating Bugeja to make it 4-2 Beavers.
Despite the loss, Bugeja was solid for the Thunderbirds, stopping 37 shots in the contest, including 20 in the third period.
At the other end, Courchaine made 36 stops for Blind River.
The Thunderbirds and Beavers were scheduled to open up the regular season last weekend with a pair of games, but the games were postponed after three Blind River players had COVID-19 symptoms.
Both teams were also required to stop any team activities, including practices, as a precaution while waiting test results. The teams got back on the ice this week after test results came back negative for all three players.
The two teams are set to meet again on Saturday night in Blind River.