SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Lucas Theriault’s 10th goal of the playoffs, coming midway through the third period, proved to be the game-winner as the Soo Thunderbirds skated to a 4-2 victory Saturday in a must-win Game 5 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series at John Rhodes Community Centre.
The result means the series continues with the Lumberjacks holding a 3-2 lead with Game 6 slated for Monday at 7 p.m. at Claude Larose Arena in Hearst.
The visitors were quick to strike as they forced a turnover in the neutral and broke in on a two-on-one with Jake Desando sending a cross-ice feed over to Max Griffioen who snapped a shot over the pads of a sprawled William Anderson in the Sault Ste. Marie net.
Going to the power play, the Thunderbirds drew level with 6:39 left as Brady Caruso collected his first of the playoffs to level the proceedings after one.
Hearst countered quickly to commence the middle session as Bradley Golant put the Lumberjacks back in front just over a minute in.
It stayed 2-1 for the guests until the 4:40 of the third as Spencer Van Tiem tied it for the Soo.
Theriault then connected half way through the frame as his effort was not only the decider, but extended a consecutive game point streak to seven in succession.
Brendan Miller than capped off a three-goal outburst in the late going to secure the decision and send the series back to Hearst Monday.
Miller also had two assists for a three-point night.
Shots on goal on the night were 31 apiece with Anderson picking up the win and Nicholas Tallarico the loss.
The NOJHL winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, April 30 – May 4, in Cochrane.
There the league winner will meet the Oakville Blades (OJHL), Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) and the host Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) in the five-day event with a berth to the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-18, in Brooks, Alta.
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks lead best-of-seven series 3-2
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: Monday, April 22 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Rod Aubertin – SSM Photos