SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A Matthew Caruso marker 6:03 into overtime was the decider as the Soo Thunderbirds edged the Elliot Lake Wildcats 3-2 Saturday evening in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division final Saturday at Essar Centre.
Game 2 in this best-of-seven affair goes Monday at 7 p.m. at Elliot Lake’s Centennial Arena.
In Saturday’s contest, Sault Ste. Marie notched the lone tally of the opening period near the midway mark with Jaren Bellini connecting during a man advantage opportunity.
Elliot Lake tied things up at 9:49 of the second stanza when Nathan Campbell picked up his second of the playoffs snapping a streak of over 220 minutes that Soo netminder Connor Ryckman went without allowing a goal.
The Wildcats then took the lead during a power play 4:48 into the third as Connor Rider finished off a Cole Hepler feed to make it 2-1 for the visitors.
The T-Birds forced overtime with 4:27 remaining in regulation as Michael Caruso knotted the affair.
In the first extra session Matt Caruso won it for the home side beating Elliot Lake starter Aaron Mackay for the game-winner.
Mackay was spectacular despite the defeat as the Wildcats goaltender finished the night with 48 saves.
Ryckman faced 14 attempts in a winning cause for the Soo.