The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League season came to an end on Sunday afternoon for the Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers.
In what was a season that was unlike any other the players and coaches were involved in, the Thunderbirds did what every team wants to do, end the season with a win.
The Thunderbirds skated to a 7-5 win over the Beavers Sunday in the seventh game of the COVID Cup at the John Rhodes Community Centre locally.
Blind River battled back on three separate occasions to tie the hockey game, including in the third period when trialing by a 5-3 margin.
The Thunderbirds would take the lead for good though when Parker Morgan beat Beavers goaltender Gavin Disano just 51 seconds after Noah Minns had tied the game at five.
Morgan’s goal came on a deflection in close of a point shot by rookie blueliner Connor Toms at 8:45 of the period.
Tyson Doucette then added an insurance goal just under four minutes later for the Thunderbirds.
“I’m very proud of the whole team,” Thunderbirds coach Denny Lambert said. “They did a great job of building their team. They found their identity and they really cared for each other. They wanted to play the right way for each other and it made a difference. We found out how to be a team. Every player to a man in that room was dedicated to each other and that’s what makes us proud as coaches.”
“It’s such a tough season, but they found a way to play the game the right way and to continue to get better,” Lambert added.
Noah Boman paced the Thunderbirds offensively in the win with two goals and two assists while Cooper Smyl chipped in with two goals and an assist.
Caleb Wood chipped in with a goal and an assist.
Toms also had two points for the Thunderbirds with a pair of assists.
Thunderbirds goaltender Scott Young made 35 saves.
Minns and Jacob Kelly had a goal and two assists each for Blind River while Thomas Michaud, Matt Cato, and Milos Todorovic had a goal and an assist each
Lucas Adams had a pair of assists for the Beavers.
Disano made 35 saves.
“A lot of emotion was spent yesterday when we won that game,” Lambert said. “I give them credit for being professional and coming out and competing hard.”
Lambert credited the Beavers in the contest as well.
“They’re well-coached and they played well,” Lambert said. “It’s such a strange year, but for both teams to compete as hard as they did for all these games, it just shows their character.”
Lambert was also impressed with the intensity in Sunday’s contest.
“With playing each other so many times, the pride that Blind River has and the pride that the Soo Thunderbirds have, it didn’t matter if we were playing for the title yesterday or today,” Lambert said. “We wanted to make sure that we were good, to compete as a team. These guys are a very tight group. It’s an easy group to coach because of their character and commitment to each other. It’s been a tough year, but I give them all the credit for competing.”