Thunderbirds regain 1st overall with triumph over Crunch

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds connected for three unanswered third period goals to earn a 4-2 victory over the Cochrane Crunch Sunday evening in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play at John Rhodes Community Centre.

After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the visiting Crunch would commence the scoring five and a half minutes into the middle stanza as Austin Stauffer picked up his team-leading seventh goal of the season.

Sault Ste. Marie countered with the equalizer on a Nick Smith effort at 13:00 as he too picked up his seventh marker of the campaign.

However Cochrane came back to retake the lead before the period was complete as Stauffer struck again for his second of the night and eighth overall a mere 14 seconds later.

Heading into the third, the tightly-contested match-up saw the Thunderbirds draw level once more thanks to Bradon Caruso midway through the final session.

Going on the power play a couple shifts later, the Soo picked up the winner off the stick Kaidan McDonald as he converted on the man advantage with 9:04 to go.

Noah Solinger then provided some insurance for the Thunderbirds at 16:19 to cap off the come from behind win.

Smith had a big night for the Soo adding three assists to finish with a four-point evening while Solinger had a couple of helpers to go with his goal.

Brandon Gordon was called upon to make 24 saves to produce the win while Shayne Battler faced 35 attempts in the setback for the Crunch.

With the win the Thunderbirds improved to 8-3-1-0 on the season giving them a league-best 17 points heading into the NOJHL Showcase which begins Tuesday in Sudbury.

In defeat Cochrane slipped to 5-6-0-0 overall.