Thunderbirds return to win column with decision over Wildcats

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds rode the strength of a four-goal second period to help them defeat the visiting Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-2 Wednesday evening in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League match-up at Essar Centre.

In their first outing since having a lengthy home ice winning streak snapped over the weekend, the Thunderbirds responded in a big way in earning the triumph.

After a scoreless first period, Sault Ste. Marie struck four times in the middle session to break the game open.

Thunderbirds’ affiliate Caleb Wood made his presence felt in his NOJHL debut as he notched his first league tally just past the four minute mark. He also added two later assists to finish with a three-point night.

Ryan Waterhouse then made it 2-0 at 12:33 of the frame to put the home side up by a pair.

The T-Birds kept coming and tacked on two more before the stanza was complete on goals 52 seconds apart from Nick Smith and Austin Kozluk, which spelled the end of Elliot Lake netminder Justin Richer’s night in favour of Matt Kostiw.

The Wildcats did get one back 3:29 into the third compliments of Mack Caruana only to see Kozluk added his second of the night, during a man advantage, four and a half minutes later.

Caruna added another for the visitors later in the period before Lucas Theriault supplied his first in the NOJHL at 17:33 to round out the scoring.

Kaidan McDonald also dished two helpers to aid the winners cause.

Soo starter Brandon Gordon made 27 saves to record the win.

Richer suffered the loss allowing the four against on 15 attempts while Kostiw handled six of eight in 22 minutes of relief.

With the result, the Thunderbirds moved one point past the Rayside-Balfour Canadians and back into top spot in the NOJHL’s West Division as they improved to 16-7-1-0 overall.

The Wildcats slipped to 9-15-1-0 in defeat.

League play resumes Thursday at 7:30 p.m. as the French River Rapids host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at Noelville Arena.

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