Rookie goalie Noah Zeppa set the stage early for the Soo Major Thunderbirds in their Great North Midget Hockey League playoff game with the visiting New Liskeard Cubs.
Zeppa made five big saves — including a pair of breakaway stops — before the game was five minutes old and the Major Thunderbirds eventually got their game together en route to a frantic 4-2 victory over New Liskeard.
Thursday’s Game 1 win at John Rhodes Community Centre gave the Soo a 1-0 lead over New Liskeard in the best-of-three, opening-round playoff series.
The balance of the series is slated for Don Shepherdson Memorial Arena in New Liskeard this weekend.
As for the series opener, Zeppa — who was in net for 10 of the Soo’s 12 regular-season victories — the keen-eyed puck-stopper with the cat-like reflexes was on the top of his game early as New Liskeard was quick on the attack.
But it was speedy centre Brock Santa Maria who staked the Soo to a 1-0 lead on a beauty of a breakaway goal just after the Major Thunderbirds had killed off a penalty.
Santa Maria, who led the Soo in goals during the regular season with 18, was a going concern all game long for the Major Thunderbirds as was fellow forward Cole Delarosbil, who scored the game winner late in the third period.
Cole Ambeault and Michael Chaffay (with an empty net goal) also scored for the Soo while Mavrick Levesque and Carter Richmond replied for New Liskeard.
Shutdown forward Dylan Forsyth also turned in an effective outing for the Soo, which now heads to New Liskeard for Game 2 on Saturday night at 6:30.
If a third game is needed, it will be played Sunday afternoon at 3:00 in New Liskeard.
PHOTO: Brock Santa Maria of the Soo Major Thunderbirds and Zach Lajoie of the New Liskeard Cubs, in Game 1 action from their Great North Midget Hockey League playoff series. (Photo by Allana Plaunt.)