Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (March 24, 2012) - Following a win last night against their cross-border rival, the Soo Thunderbirds now have a 3-0 series lead against the Soo Eagles in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League Western Division championship. The Ontario club beat their Michigan counterpart 6-1 in front of more than 1,000 spectators at the Essar Centre.
Despite the fact that his opponent is now at the brink of elimination, Thunderbirds head coach Preston Mizzi is by no means planning a victory party yet. "You can't count anybody out, especially the Eagles, until the finer buzzer of the elimination game," he said evenly. "Teams can come back from a deficit like that. We have to put it in our minds that the next game (on Saturday night in Sault, Mich.) is like game one."
The Eagles began the night with a 1-0 lead following a goal from Travis Payne just 37 seconds into regulation. After that, the Thunderbirds took control. Greg Sartoretto netted one 20 seconds later, and Cody Zorzi, who was awarded the game's first star award, scored two of his own late in the first period.
"They (Eagles) had a good start, but we were hungrier," said Mizzi. "For the full 60 minutes, we battled hard. The guys didn't let up until the final buzzer. And that's what it takes to win, particularly in the playoffs."
In the second period, Mikey Sartoretto put the Thunderbirds up 4-1. In the final frame, the captain scored another, while Matt Amadio, who already had a pair of assists on the night and was eventually awarded second star, buried his team's final goal of the evening. Meanwhile, goalie John Kleinhans, who earned the third star award, made 26 saves.
The NOJHL Western Division finals continue Saturday night at Michigan's Pullar Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m. More information on the Thunderbirds is available online at www.tbirdhockey.ca.