A Twin Soo junior hockey rivalry was revisited on the weekend. Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles met up in a home-and-home series featuring the cross-border, Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League rivals.
The Eagles began the early December showdown with a 3-2 win over the visiting Thunderbirds before more than 600 fans at venerable Pullar Stadium in the Michigan Soo. It was the first win for the Eagles over the Thunderbirds this 2018-2019 season after three earlier setbacks.
Soo, Ontario products Caleb Wood and Raf Praysner scored for the Michigan-based Eagles in the first match of the weekend. The goal for Wood was his team-leading 15th of the season.
Then, in a touch of irony, Michigan Soo native Brendan Miller scored two goals against his hometown Eagles as the Thunderbirds won the weekend night cap by a 5-2 margin before a sparse crowd of about 150 fans in cold, uncomfortable John Rhodes Community Centre. (Of note, there was a nice gathering on hand upstairs in the newly-named, nicely-remodeled Icebreakers Sports Bar and Grill.)
In that game, the visiting Eagles battled back to narrow the score to 3-2 midway through the third period before the Thunderbirds responded with a pair, including an empty net marker, to clinch the victory.
Miller, a 1998 birth year forward, liked the turnaround that the Thunderbirds showed in Game 2 of the weekend.
“I think we had a better start than we did on Friday night,” Miller relayed. “We got pucks deep and buried our chances.”
Miller, who entered Saturday’s game with just two goals on the season, doubled his output with the two tallies, both of which were scored in the third period.
“It felt really good,” Miller added. “It’s really good for my confidence and I should be able to build on it.”
Thunderbirds rookie defenseman Nate Medaglia, who went into Saturday’s tilt with five assists on the season, potted his first NOJHL goal into an empty net.
“All the boys were happy for Nate,” continued Miller. “It’s always nice to see that milestone happen.”
Meanwhile, T-Birds rookie forward Cam Findlay had his first career multi-point game in Saturday’s victory. Findlay scored once and added an assist while Kaidan McDonald had a power play marker to round out the home side scoring.
Eagles general manager Bruno Bragagnolo took away positives from the weekend split with the Thunderbirds.
“It was a good game on Friday and I thought we played well,” said Bragagnolo. “It was nice to get our first win of the season against a very good Soo Thundeerbirds team. We battled back on Saturday but came up short. It was a good effort on our part.”
The Thunderbirds ended the week with 46 points from a record of 23-6-0, good for first place in the West Division of the NOJHL.
Meanwhile, the Eagles finished up the week with a record of 13-17-1.
PHOTO: Soo Thunderbirds forward Brendan Miller, in NOJHL action from Saturday against the visiting Soo Eagles. (Photo by Rod Aubertin/www.ssmphotos.com.)