Leave it to a pure goal scorer to decide a hotly-contested, seven-game playoff series. A power play marker by top gun Nick Smith with just over seven minutes to play in the third period lifted the Soo Thunderbirds to a dramatic 3-2 win over the Soo Eagles tonight in the seventh-and-deciding game of their Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League West Division semi-final set.
The win capped a frantic series comeback by the Thunderbirds, who had trailed three games to one before reeling off three straight victories.
The no. 2 seed Thunderbirds will now play the no. 1 seed Rayside-Balfour Canadians for the West Division playoff title. That series will get underway on Friday with Rayside-Balfour as the home team.
It wasn’t an easy triumph for the T-Birds, in the Game 7 showdown with the cross-border, Michigan-based Eagles, who took a 2-0 lead on goals by Jake Palmerio and Hayden Clark before the home side evened it up on markers by Spencer Van Tiem and Robert Calisti.
The 2-2 score then set the stage for the game winner by Smith, who had led the Thunderbirds with 35 regular season goals and 69 points.
Smith’s Game 7 victory tally was his second of the playoff series.
And what a series it was.
One game. One deciding goal.
Series over. Thunderbirds win.
In the Nick of time.
PHOTO: Soo Thunderbirds forward Nick Smith.