Return home with 3-1 series lead in NOJHL finals
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (April 8, 2012) - After splitting a weekend pair in North Bay, the Soo Thunderbirds come home with a 3-1 series lead against the Trappers in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League championship. Following a 4-2 loss on Friday, the visiting team battled back and earned a 6-2 victory the following night.
Winning the first two games of the series at home, the one loss in North Bay gives the Soo squad a chance to return home and put the series away. Game 5 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Essar Centre. "We'll take the split and see what we can do at home," Thunderbirds head coach Preston Mizzi said on Saturday night. "We'll use the next few days to prepare and get ready for Tuesday."
Meanwhile, with the Trappers having previously played six games in nine nights - courtesy of an intense, seven-game Eastern Division finals against the Sudbury Cubs - the two-game set this past weekend was essentially the first time in the series when North Bay had any meaningful rest. And they took advantage.
On Friday night at North Bay's Memorial Gardens, the first two periods were scoreless. A goal from Matt Amadio just 13 seconds into the final frame game put the Thunderbirds up by one. The Trappers answered, though, about seven minutes later with a tally from Brad Gehl. Less than one minute later, the Soo's Micky Sartoretto scored, giving the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead. After that, it was more Gehl, with the Trappers captain scoring two more within a nine-second span. An empty net goal gave North Bay a 4-2 win.
"They (Trappers) were rested, we weren't our sharpest, and the rest is history," Mizzi said of Friday's loss. "This time of year, if you don't play your best, it's tough to win games."
In Game 4 of the league finals on Saturday, Thunderbirds forward Nick Romano scored in the first. Kevin Michelcavage buried two in the second, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead. In the final frame, it was more in the same. The Soo's Matt Amadio and Brett Campbell each scored early in the period. Brandon Janke then scored for the Trappers, but it was too little, too late. Amadio notched his second of the game shortly thereafter, and a final North Bay goal from Eric Samtleben late in the period made the final score 6-2 in favour of the Thunderbirds.
"We started strong and didn't let up," Mizzi said of the win. "Things clicked, and we managed to capitalized on our chances."
With the Thunderbirds up 3-1 in the best-of-seven, NOJHL championship, Game 5 is set for Tuesday night at 7:30 at the Essar Centre. The winner of the series earns a berth in the Dudley Hewitt Cup from April 17 to 21 in Thunder Bay. More information on the Thunderbirds, including a schedule of subsequent games (if necessary), is available online at www.tbirdhockey.ca.