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Thunderbirds slump continues in North Bay

After a dazzling start to the season, the Soo Thunderbirds have taken a bit of a nose dive.
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After a dazzling start to the season, the Soo Thunderbirds have taken a bit of a nose dive.

The Thunderbirds finished a four-game road trip on Sunday night with 4-3 loss in North Bay after the Skyhawks rallied with two third period goals to recover from a 3-2 second period deficit.

After starting the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season at 11-0-2, the Thunderbirds have lost their last three games to fall to 11-2-2-1, although two of the losses have come on the road against two of the league's top teams in Abitibi and North Bay and another in overtime in Northern Michigan.

The Thunderbirds will return home to the friendly confines of the John Rhodes Community Centre on Friday to battle the Abitibi Eskimos at 7:30 p.m.

In North Bay, the Skyhawks jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as Kyle Groningan scored 41 seconds into the game and Noel Lortie scored on the power play less than six minutes later. Tom Vernelli scored for the Thunderbirds to cut the lead to 2-1 after one period.

Ryan MacKay on the power play and D.J. Jelitto, who also recorded an assist in the game, scored late in the second period to give the Thunderbirds the 3-2 lead heading into the third period.

Nathan Daly tied the game for the Skyhawks 2:47 into the third period while the game winner came from the stick of Sylvain Houle who scored the on the power play with 3:10 remaining in regulation time.

After the Thunderbirds allowed North Bay to pepper goaltender Mike Downer with 17 shots in the first period, the Skyhawks managed only seven shots on goal the remainder of the game including only three in the third period.

The game turned rough in the dying seconds as MacKay and the Skyhawks Josh Merson fought with five seconds remaining.

The bouts continued at the final buzzer as the Soo's Aaron Anderson and North Bay's Joel Whissell squared off before the T-Birds Justin Towell and Lortie tangled. Towell and Lortie were tagged with misconducts for being the second fight on the same stoppage of play.

In NOJHL action on Saturday night, the Blind River Beavers had goals from six different players in a 6-3 win over the Northern Michigan Black Bears.