SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Spencer Van Tiem tally 15 minutes into the second period held up as the game-winner as the Soo Thunderbirds held off the Espanola Express 5-3 Wednesday in a back and forth Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League affair at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Skating in his first NOJHL contest of the campaign, Sault Ste. Marie affiliate forward Kurtis Foster made an immediate impression by notching the game’s initial tally 2:55 in with another A.P. in Michael Chaffay collecting his first point in the league with the assist.
Answering back, Espanola evened the score five minutes into the contest as Chase Lammi scored for a 12th time in 2018-19 off a set-up from Joshua Ernst.
The Soo’s Noah Boman put the Thunderbirds back in front only to see Connor Tessier answer for the Express to level the proceedings at 2-2 after one.
Action in the middle stanza saw the hosts regain the lead just 31 seconds in on a Brock Santa Maria marker.
Continuing to battle, Espanola tied it for a third time during a man advantage opportunity midway through the period as Lukas Lyszyk picked up his 18th goal.
Once again though, the Thunderbirds regained the lead as Van Tiem made it 4-3 for the home side moments after an Express penalty had expired, which they carried into the final frame.
Both clubs tightened up defensively from there as the remainder of the game stayed scoreless until the final minute when Nolan Ford put one into an empty net to put a wrap on the home victory.
Cam Findlay dished out a trio of assists to aid the Soo offensive cause.
Shots on goal favoured the Soo by a 40-29 margin with William Anderson picking up the win while Joel Rainville suffered the narrow setback.
Game Photos courtesy of Rod Aubertin – SSM Photos