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Thunderbirds advance to NOJHL final & Dudley-Hewitt Cup with series win over Wildcats

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds are off to their fifth straight Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series.

Sault Ste. Marie advanced to their latest Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy NOJHL final after defeating the Elliot Lake Wildcats 7-2 Saturday in Game 5 of their West Division at Essar Centre.

In earning the decision the Thunderbirds win the best-of-seven series 4-1 and will now meet the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners for the league championship.

The Gold Miners rallied to upend the Cochrane Crunch 4-3 tonight to take the East Division final in five games as well.

Also, as Kirkland Lake is hosting the 2016 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship, the T-Birds automatically advance to the event as the other NOJHL representative regardless of the outcome of the league final.

Saturday’s contest between the Soo and Elliot Lake saw the Thunderbirds take control early as they grabbed a 3-0 lead after one period of period on tallies by Brett Jeffries, Matthew Caruso and Caleb Boman, via the power play, eight and a half minutes apart.

After rallying from a three-goal deficit to win 4-3 in overtime on Friday to keep their season going, Elliot Lake made things interesting with a pair of late man advantage in the second stanza to pull to within one entering the third in Saturday’s match-up.

Artur Terchiyev got the Wildcats first one during a two-man advantage at 17:26 and while still on the power play Shane Woolsey scored for a second straight night 63 seconds later.

The Thunderbirds were quick to regroup to begin the third however as they came out and went by two in the first half minute of the stanza courtesy of Zach Senecal’s second of the playoffs from Joey Miller and Matthew Busby.

Connecting on the power play midway through the frame, the Soo regained their earlier three-goal lead as Izaak Del Mastro provided an insurance marker.

The Thunderbirds then put the finishing touches on the series win and they remained unbeaten on home ice this season getting goals from Miller at 13:57 and another thanks to Adam McPhail less than two minutes later to wrap things up.

Boman, Matt Caruso, Busby and Drake Pilon each chipped in with two assists for the T-Birds.

Connor Ryckman made 25 saves to record the win for the Soo while Al Rogers faced 41 attempts in a season-ending defeat for the Wildcats.

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