With a 3 – 0 lead in the west division championship series, the Soo Thunderbirds boarded the bus on Friday April 8th to head to Elliot Lake to face the Wildcats in game four of the best of seven Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League post – season match – up. In the first three games of the series, the Soo has two 5 – 0 shutout wins in game two and three and 3 – 2 in game one.
20 year old Matt Mitchell gives the Soo a 1 – 0 lead 3:03 into the first with assists coming from Mark Tassone and Adam McPhail. Defenseman Michael Caruso sinks the Thunderbirds second of the contest at the 3:18 mark of the opening period with Zach Senecal and Mitchell adding the helpers on Caruso’s goal. With the Soo on a power play, Jaren Bellini scores the Thunderbirds third of the game to bring the visitors lead to 3 – 0 with Joey Miller and Drake Pilon drawing the contributors.
At ten minutes even of the first, veteran Wildcat Ned Simpson brings Elliot Lake within two with Liam Blais and Artur Terchiyev setting up Simpson’s goal behind Thunderbird goaltender Connor Ryckman. Wildcat Ryan Hackett fires a pass to Ty Hannaford to close the gap to one for Elliot Lake with 1:19 left in the first.
10 seconds before the halfway mark of the third, Elliot Lake’s Spencer MacLean finds the back of Ryckman’s net to even the game at 3 – 3. Alec MacKenize added the assist on MacLean’s tying goal. Wildcat MacLean’s goal sent game four into the overtime at the Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake on Friday evening.
7:57 into the first overtime, Troy Button fires a pass to Chad Lopez to give the Wildcats a 4 – 3 overtime win over the Thunderbirds to send the series back to Sault Ste Marie for game five.
Thunderbird coach Jordan Smith told the Junior Hockey Network that “Elliot Lake showed more desire to win tonight. Their compete level and desperation was greater than ours and deserved the win. We need to rebound and come back with a strong effort tomorrow at home. I know our guys are very hungry for the game tomorrow in Sault Ste Marie.”
Game five will take place on Saturday April 9th at the Essar Centre in a 7:30 p.m start.
NOJHL West Division Final
(1) Soo Thunderbirds vs. (2) Elliot Lake Wildcats
Sault Ste. Marie leads best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Sault Ste. Marie 3 Elliot Lake 2 (OT)
Game 2: Sault Ste. Marie 5 Elliot Lake 0
Game 3: Sault Ste. Marie 5 Elliot Lake 0
Game 4: Sault Ste. Marie 3 Elliot Lake 4
Game 5*: Saturday, April 9 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (Essar)
Game 6*: Monday, April 11 @ Elliot Lake 7:00 p.m. (Centennial)
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 12 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:00 p.m. (Essar)
(* if necessary)