Thunderbirds hold off Wildcats for 7th win in a row

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds let a big lead get away, but regrouped in overtime to defeat the Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-5 in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League contest Saturday at Centennial Arena.

The opening frame was scoreless until late into it when Sault Ste. Marie, winners of six in a row, struck on the power at 19:57 on Nick Smith’s 16th goal of the season, which helped him extend a point streak to six straight outings.

Heading into the middle stanza, the Thunderbirds were quick to add to their lead when Noah Boman made it 2-0 at the 43-second mark.

They then tacked on two more in rapid succession to go up by four on efforts from Lucas Theriault and Gage Stephney and spell the end of Elliot Lake starter Justin Vertesi’s night in favour on Dominic Boily.

Battling back, Elliot Lake countered with tallies moments apart as Eric Conley and Jayden Parnell connected quickly to make it a 4-2 game.

The Wildcats kept coming and added another thanks to a man advantage opportunity at 10:36 off the stick of Tanner Hicks.

Back and forth they went with the Thunderbirds Avery Rebek making it 5-3 Soo after two periods of play.

Elliot Lake continued to push and got one in the third off the stick of Josh Bifolchi who picked up his 12th of the year with 13:14 to go.

The Wildcats then struck late to force extra time when Noah Minns notched the equalizer at 18:31.

In OT though, the Thunderbirds would end it to take their seven straight with 44 seconds left in the extra session as Stephney fired a low shot from inside the blueline that beat Boily for the game-winner.

Steven Bellini, Smith and Theriault had two assists each for the Soo in the triumph while Connor Taylor had three helpers for Elliot Lake.

William Anderson made 29 saves to record the win for the Thunderbirds.

Boily suffered the setback in OT stopping 23 of 25 while Vertesi allowed four against on 20 attempts in just over 24 minutes of playing time.