It was a battle of the top two teams in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division and it was the Soo Thunderbirds coming out on top.
The Thunderbirds skated to a 6-5 win over the Rayside Balfour Canadians on Sunday afternoon at the Essar Centre.
Thunderbirds General Manager/Coach Jordan Smith said a long holiday break, a week of practice and three games in under three days on the weekend led to a bit of a sloppy game.
“It was tough to get the momentum,” Smith said.
Nick Smith tied the game for the Thunderbirds at 8:02 of the third period before setting up Keegan Stevenson’s game-winner with 3:33 left in regulation time.
“He seemed to click well with Noah Solinger and Keegan Stevenson,” Smith said. “It’s nice to see the kids get rewarded.”
Solinger, Stevenson and Austin Kozluk had a goal and an assist each. Zach Senecal had a pair of goals to round out the scoring for the Thunderbirds. Jake Behse and Brendan Jay assisted on two goals each for the Thunderbirds. Goaltender Dougie Newhouse made 22 saves.
Kyle Liinamaa had two goals and an assist for the Canadians. Kaleb Peldjak also scored a pair of goals. Cayse Ton had a goal and an assist to round out the Rayside scoring. Brett Whitehead assisted on three goals while Tristan Simm added a pair of helpers in the loss. Owen Johansson got the start in goal for Rayside but was pulled after surrendering three goals on 20 shots. Cameron Lamour came in and stopped 13 of 16 shots in just under 30 minutes of action.
The Thunderbirds improve to 28-9-1-0 while Rayside falls to 20-13-3-1. The Thunderbirds move 13 points ahead of the Canadians in the NOJHL’s West Division while Rayside sits one point ahead of Blind River for second in the division.
The Thunderbirds return to action on Wednesday night at home against the Blind River Beavers. Puck drop at the Essar Centre is set for 7 p.m.