HEARST, Ont. – Soo Thunderbirds goaltender William Anderson was stellar making 36 saves to backstop his side to a pivotal 2-0 triumph over the Hearst Lumberjacks Monday evening in Game 6 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series in front of a capacity crowd of 1,223 at Claude Larose Arena.
The win by Sault Ste. Marie now knots the best-of-seven final at three victories apiece, sending it to a seventh and deciding game Wednesday night at John Rhodes Community Centre at 7 p.m.
Monday’s tightly-contested match-up saw neither side able to break the deadlock through 20 minutes of action compliments of the efforts of netminders Anderson and Hearst’s Nicholas Tallarico.
It was much the same in the middle stanza until the Thunderbirds struck late off a faceoff deep in the Lumberjacks zone that resulted in Nolan Ford chipping one over Tallarico, and in, from the side of the net with just 3.4 seconds remaining in the session.
The home side pressed for the equalizer firing 15 attempts on Anderson in the final frame, but the Soo stopper stood tall throughout to lead his team to a series finale Wednesday.
Lucas Theriault then capped off the victory with an empty netter from long range just before the clock expired to round out the scoring.
Tallarico saved 22 of 23 in suffering the narrow defeat.
The NOJHL winner will move on to meet the Oakville Blades (OJHL), Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) and the host Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, April 30 through May 4 with a berth to the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-18, in Brooks, Alta., on the line.
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Best-of-seven series tied 3-3
Game 1: Soo 3 Hearst 2
Game 2: Hearst 7 Soo 3
Game 3: Hearst 3 Soo 2
Game 4: Hearst 5 Soo 3
Game 5: Soo 4 Hearst 2
Game 6: Soo 2 Hearst 0
Game 7: Wednesday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Highway Eleven &Co.