SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Lucas Theriault tallied twice, and dished out an assist, to help propel the Soo Thunderbirds to a 4-1 victory over the Rayside-Balfour Canadians Saturday night in Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Game 2 in this best-of-seven affair goes Sunday at 7 p.m. back at John Rhodes.
Sault Ste. Marie opened the scoring in the series nearly nine minutes into the first period as they broke out of their own zone in transition with Brandon Miller putting a pass on the stick of Theriault, who used a Rayside-Balfour defender as a screen, then whipped in his sixth of the playoffs that eluded Canadians starter David Bowen.
Down a man in the middle session, the Thunderbirds struck shorthanded at 12:47 after clearing the puck that resulted in an odd-man rush and saw Kaidan McDonald make a toe drag, fire a shot and Spencer Van Tiem bury the rebound to put the home side up by a pair after 40 minutes.
The Soo then used some crisp passing during a two man advantage to add some insurance at 6:48 of the final frame as Noah Boman finished off the play for his first of the postseason.
Rayside-Balfour broke Thunderbirds’ goalkeeper Colin Ahern’s shutout bid with 7:04 remaining when Carson McMillan connected on the power play.
Theriault then helped secure the decision for the Soo in the late going with his second of the evening and seventh overall.
Nolan Ford and Boman chipped in with two assists for the Thunderbirds.
Shots on goal favoured the Soo by a 40-21 count with Ahern picking up the win and Bowen the loss.
All NOJHL playoff games are streamed live online, and on demand, via HockeyTV.com.
NOJHL West Division Final
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 2 Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Soo 4 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 2: Sunday, March 31 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 3 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 4: Thursday, April 4 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 6 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (GFL Memorial Gardens)
Game 6*: Monday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 10 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)