Photos: Bob Davies
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds built-up a three-goal lead deep into the second period, then held off an Espanola Paper Kings comeback bid before eventually prevailing 4-3 Sunday in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Trading a couple of early tallies, each team found the back of the net once before the match-up was two minutes in.
The Thunderbirds took flight 23 seconds in after Daniel Beaupre picked off the puck in the Paper Kings zone and fed a backhand across to Kelsey Ouellet, who fired it past a diving Jake Marois in the Espanola net.
Coming right back, the visitors drew level off a rush into the Sault Ste. Marie end where Atley Gringorten put a play into the crease where a hard-charging Graydon Guthrie chipped it by T-Birds starter Kolton Bourret.
The Soo regained the lead at 5:51 when James Legler made a nice spin move in close and got it to Jackson Truchan, who stuffed it past the outstretched pad of Marois for his 14th goal of the season, while giving him points in each of his past 13 outings.
Heading to the middle stanza, the Thunderbirds went up by two after some sustained pressure got put to the net where Alex Remenda jammed away at it before eventually cramming it in at 5:42.
It was more from the T-Birds later in the frame when James Legler got to puck along the end boards and put a feed into the slot where defenceman Adam Kukko swooped in and snapped it upstairs for his first career NOJHL goal.
Getting one back before the second intermission, Espanola’s Spencer Horgan put a long pass up-ice which sent Blake Peters-Davey in alone on a breakaway where he neatly picked the left-hand corner on Bourret for his 10th tally of the campaign.
Moving to the third, the Paper Kings pulled to within one with seven and a half minutes remaining after Horgan whipped one in from the right hash mark.
Picking up a late power play and getting their goalie out for an additional attacker, Espanola pressed to force overtime, but the T-Birds held firm defensively to secure the narrow home-ice victory.
The outcome sees the Soo win for a third straight time and improve to 16-5-2-1 on the season while the Paper Kings dropped to 16-9-0-0 in defeat.