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Thunderbirds 'embarrassed' in Centennial Cup loss

The Thunderbirds fell to 0-2 at the Centennial Cup after a loss on Friday
2022-05-01 Thunderbirds vs. Hearst BC (8)
Soo Thunderbirds forward Youssef Chaouachi skates with the puck during the opening game of the NOJHL final on May 1, 2022.

There was very little to like for the Soo Thunderbirds on Friday.

As the team looked to rebound from a tournament-opening loss on Thursday, the Thunderbirds dropped a 4-1 decision to the Maritime Hockey League’s Summerside Western Capitals at the 2022 Centennial Cup in Estevan, Sask.

A slow start led to further struggles for the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League club, who fall to 0-2 with the loss.

Thunderbirds head coach Cole Jarrett said he was “not happy at all” with the game.

“Aside from a handful of guys, we had way too many passengers tonight,” Jarrett also said. “Nevermind for a national championship game, but for any game you’re going to play. If you play like that on any stage, you deserve the result that you get.”

Special teams also played a factor in the game for the Thunderbirds, who went 0-for-5 on the man advantage while also surrendering three power play goals in the game.

Among the power plays for the Thunderbirds was a double minor to Summerside defenceman Sam Dow just 62 seconds into the game. The Thunderbirds struggled to generate chances, which seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the night.

“We definitely set the tone,” Jarrett said. “It was that we were going to get out-worked and that’s basically what happened with special teams tonight and five-on-five. Plain and simple, we got outworked all night long.”

One of the few bright spots in the game was the play of goaltender Noah Zeppa for the Thunderbirds, who stopped 40 shots in the loss.

“He kept it respectable tonight,” Jarrett said.

Summerside opened the scoring on the power play when Sid McNeill took a pass in the slot from Josh MacDonald and beat Zeppa with a one-timer high glove side at 12:09 of the opening period.

Youssef Chaouachi tied the game for the Thunderbird at 18:44 when he beat Capitals goaltender Felix-Anthony Ethier high stick side from in close moments after a turnover.

The Capitals took the lead for good 29 seconds later when Marc Richard scored on a rebound at the edge of the crease after Zeppa stopped him initially on the play.

Just 90 seconds into the second period, Jacob Steward made it 3-1 when he took a pass in the slot from Thomas Lacombe and beat Zeppa from the slot stick side.

MacDonald capped off the scoring 1:29 later when he cut in from the right faceoff circle and beat Zeppa high glove side with a shot from the slot.

MacDonald finished the night with a goal and two assists for Summerside while Colby MacArthur and Ed McNeill assisted on a pair of goals each.

Ethier stopped 13 shots.

The Thunderbirds now have two days off before returning to action on Monday.

“We were embarrassed tonight and if we can’t find something in a hurry, then that’s what the rest of our time out here in Estevan is going to be like,” Jarrett said. “It’s only up to the guys that are here to pick ourselves up off the mat. Luckily, we have two days to regroup here.”

Asked if Friday’s game was a wakeup call, Jarrett said “it is, if they get the call.”

“That’s going to be up to them,” Jarrett said. “They were shown tonight what a team looks like that competes and plays together and plays the right way for 60 minutes and what they can do. Summerside did that to us tonight. Even when they were up 4-1, they didn’t waver from their game plan. They put pucks behind our D and they went and got them. We’ve been asking our guys to do that all season long and we’re not getting it on a consistent basis.”

The Thunderbirds will face the Central Canada Hockey League’s Ottawa Jr. Senators on Monday before wrapping up round robin play with a game against the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Dauphin Kings on Wednesday.