Thunderbirds dash Eagles playoff hopes

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Samuel Lake man advantage marker 6:21 into the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Soo Thunderbirds went on to upend the rival Soo Eagles 3-1 in a spirited Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League match-up Tuesday evening at the Northern Community Centre.

With the outcome, the Eagles are thus eliminated from playoff contention, with the Espanola Paper Kings securing the fourth and final postseason slot in the NOJHL’s West Division.

The opening 20 minutes was played with an edge, but the clubs hit the first intermission still in search of the night’s opening goal.

Action in the second stanza saw the Thunderbirds crack the goose egg early on when a falling Quinn Myles corralled a loose puck between the circles and whipped it into the top right hand corner on Eagles netminder Anthony Zolezzi.

An extended power play helped the T-Birds go up by a pair at 6:21 as Lake jammed in a rebound while parked in front off a Jackson Truchan one-timer from the left circle.

Heading to the final frame, the home side went up by three thanks to Callum McAuley flying down the left wing and ripping a shot past Zolezzi while the clubs were skating four aside.

Pressuring a turnover helped the Eagles get on the board with 6:51 remaining and saw Zach Sweitzer send Benjamin Pouliot in on goaltender Kolton Bourret before making a quick move to his right and tucking his chance through the legs and in for his team-leading 24th tally.

The visitors got their goalie out late for an extra attacker in an attempt to pull closer, but the hosts held firm defensively to secure the victory.

With the win, the Thunderbirds improved to 37-13-4-1 on the year while the Eagles fell to 33-22-1-2 in a season-ending defeat.

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