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GALLERY: Thunderbirds survive Express comeback with early OT triumph

ESPANOLA, Ont. – A Jacob Kovacs tally 10 seconds into overtime helped the Soo Thunderbirds survive a comeback bid by the Espanola Express as they pulled out a 5-4 decision in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play Friday at the Regional Recreation Complex.

Sault Ste. Marie started strong in this one as they skated out to a 2-0 cushion before the match-up was 10 minutes old.

Mackenzie Walkington put in his first of the night at 4:52 while Rylan Clemons added one at 9:51 as he scored for a fifth straight outing as he has now picked up a point in all seven games he has played for Thunderbirds.

Espanola cut into the deficit at 15:59 on a Brennen Martel effort.

The Express then tied things up early in the second stanza thanks to team captain Mattias Salem.

Regrouping, the Soo scored twice in the latter stages of the session to go up 4-2 as Walkington added another while Nolan Ford connected a couple of shifts later.

Battling back in the third, Salem scored once more for Espanola as he converted on a man advantage opportunity at 6:38.

From there, the Express scored once more as Cameron Walker’s equalizer with 3:52 left in regulation time forced extra time.

However, the Thunderbirds converted quickly with Kovacs getting his team-best fourth game-winner of the season, which came shortly after the faceoff to give the guests the victory.

Dakota Meyer made 26 saves to record the win for the Soo while Espanola netminder Carson Boutin faced 41 shots in the setback, but helped his side secure a point.