Soo Thunderbirds were, to be sure, full marks for a resounding 8-1 romp over the visiting Espanola Express in the first of four meetings between the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League foes.
The Thunderbirds out-shot and out-played the Express over the final 30 minutes of the match to turn a narrow 1-0 lead into a decisive 8-1 decision.
Two goals just past the midway mark of the second period gave the Thunderbirds a 3-0 lead and while a last-minute tally by the Express narrowed the margin to 3-1, it was all Soo in the third frame with five unanswered scores.
It was a rather even game for just over 30 minutes with both goalies, Carson Boutin of Espanola and Scott Young of the Soo, making some sparkling saves.
Boutin would get ejected from the game after stopping 24 of 26 shots and the Thunderbirds would subsequently pounce on rookie goalie Luke Beally, who was making his first-ever NOJHL appearance.
All in all, it was a full effort of 60 minutes of relentless play for the Soo. Espanola, meanwhile, spent a good portion of the game chasing the play and never did seem to get into sync.
This is a young, talented, Express team, however. It is well coached and Tuesday’s loss to the T-Birds could be chalked up to the Express not taking advantage of early scoring opportunities and then letting the game get out of hand in the third period.
Now, it will be up to Espanola to return to the Soo on Thursday with a bounce back effort, something that the Express has already done this season.
That was, after an 8-2 loss on home ice to French River, the Express rebounded with back-to-back road wins over the Rapids, by 7-4 and 6-1 scores.
Whether the Express can do that against the Thunderbirds remains to be seen, as the two teams will meet three more times this week — Thursday night in the Soo and Saturday and Sunday afternoons in Espanola.
As Espanola now has a 3-2-2 record after seven games, the Soo now has a 2-2-1 mark after five outings and is coming off of Tuesday’s big win over the Express in which the T-Birds were in high flight.