By Matt Stefano
After blanking the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-0 on Saturday night and extending their unbeaten streak to 12 games, the Soo Thunderbirds were just one win away from their 40th win of the season as they took on the Rayside Balfour Canadians Tuesday night at the John Rhodes.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game with a record of 39-11-1-1, the T-Birds picked up win No. 40 as they defeated the Canadians 7-2.
“It’s a good accomplishment for the team this year,” said T-Birds head coach Jordan Smith, whose club hit the 40 win plateau for the second consecutive season.
During the club’s 18 years in the NOJHL, the T-Birds have only had three 40 win seasons (2014, 2016 & 2017) and were all under head coach Jordan Smith, who has been behind the bench since the 2013-2014 season.
“We put in a lot of work and we still need to improve in some areas,” continued Smith. “But I think we are heading in the right direction and that’s a nice feeling getting ready for the playoffs and knowing that we are playing good hockey.”
The T-Birds also extended their winning streak to 9 games.
“The Canadians are always a tough team to play against,” concluded Smith. “They’re physical, they’re big and I thought we controlled the speed of the game. Our forwards and defence worked together. We work well as units and it was nice to be able to find the back of the net seven times.”
T-Birds captain Matt Caruso led the way offensively with two goals, including one on the power play, and two assists.
“It was a great effort from the boys during all three periods,” said Caruso. “It’s great getting these wins going into the playoffs and getting momentum, especially with home ice advantage.”
Caruso’s four point night, gave himself 162 career points, passing former T-Birds captain Anthony Miller (160) for 7th on the Soo Thunderbirds all-time points list.
“Anthony was a great player,” concluded T-Birds captain Matt Caruso. “He was my captain for a year. A really good captain overall too and I just try to model my game after him along with his leadership.”
Zach Senecal also had a big night offensively for the T-Birds with a goal and two helpers while Austin Kozluk had a goal and an assist.
Rookie forward Keegan Stevenson had a power play goal and an assist for the T-Birds while Mike Winn and Keenan Eddy (shorthanded) had a goal each.
Greg Smith and Ryan Mulligan chipped in with a pair of assists each while Alec Allen, Nick Smith and Mark Tassone all had one assist each.
Evan Krassey (power play) and Matt Neault had the goals for the Canadians while Andre Frappier, Chad Denault, Tristan Simm and Bryce O’Brien all had one assist each.
Dougie Newhouse made 23 saves for the T-Birds win while Cameron Lamour gave up 7 goals on 41 shots in the Canadians loss.
The T-Birds will play their final road game of the regular season on Friday, March 3rd in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan against the Soo Eagles at 7:30 p.m. from the Pullar Stadium.
(Photo credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)