Photos: Marc Johnson
HEARST, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds got goals from four different skaters to help them defeat the Hearst Lumberjacks 4-2 Friday night in Game 4 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s championship series in front of a capacity crowd at Claude Larose Recreation Centre.
With the outcome, the Lumberjacks still lead the best-of-seven affair 3-1, but it sets-up Game 5 in the series, which will be held Sunday at John Rhodes Recreation Centre in Sault Ste. Marie at 7 p.m.
The night’s best early chance midway through the first period, but Hearst’s Riley Klugerman was denied as Sault Ste. Marie starter Noah Metivier flashed the leather by making a great glove save from point-blank range.
It was fast-paced throughout the opening frame, however the clubs reached the intermission still in search of a tally.
Moving to the middle stanza though, the Thunderbirds needed just 15 seconds to start the scoring as Kyle Trottier put a pass over to Andrew Gibson at the right point, where he sent a rising wrist shot that sailed into the top right corner of the net past a partially screened Lumberjacks’ goalkeeper, Matteo Gennaro.
Countering with the equalizer, the home side drew level just after a power play they were on had expired, that came about when Dylan Ford put one towards the net from up high that Ryan Glazer corralled and proceeded to lift a back hand over the pad of Metivier.
The goal was Glazer’s 12th, which tied him for top spot in NOJHL playoff markers with the Soo’s Michael Chaffay.
Going to a man advantage themselves, the T-Birds went back in front at 7:14 thanks to Mason Chitaroni finding the mark with a long-range wrist shot from the blueline that sailed through a maze and eluded Gennaro.
A third Thunderbirds’ tally came early in the final frame when Kaden Dundas to a shot from the point that was neatly redirected out of mid-air by Brock Santa Maria and changed direction enough to go through the legs of the Hearst netminder and proved to be the game-winner.
Adding some insurance after another man advantage had come to a close, the Soo secured the road triumph when Michael Chaffay fed an open Dharan Cap, who had plenty of time to spin and backhand the puck in with 3:22 to go.
Hearst did get one more before time expired as Ford hammered one from the high slot on a late power play at 19:57 to round out the night’s scoring.
The NOJHL champion will advance to represent the league at the Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, May 19-29, in Estevan, Sask.
NOJHL championship series schedule
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks lead best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Lumberjacks 6 Thunderbirds 4
Game 2: Lumberjacks 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 3: Lumberjacks 5 Thunderbirds 4 (OT)
Game 4: Thunderbirds 4 Lumberjacks 2
Game 5: Sunday, May 8 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, May 10 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Recreation Centre)
Game 7*: Thursday, May 12 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)