At last, the Soo Eagles have landed on home ice. The lone American team in the 12 member Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, the Eagles started the 2021-2022 regular season with 15 straight road games while the International Bridge was closed to non-essential travel from Canada.
EAGLES 6, EXPRESS 2
The NOJHL home ice debut return by the Eagles went their way as they defeated the Espanola Express 6-2 before 400 fans at Pullar Stadium.
Appearing in their first NOJHL home game since March of 2020 — which was a preliminary round playoff game against Espanola — the Eagles scored six and a half minutes into the match on Charlie Salem’s first league goal after Brian Fiddes darted around the net and set him up parked in front where he quickly stuffed it past Express goalie Patrick Boivin.
A frantic middle session saw the two sides combine for six goals, including a four-pack provided by the home side.
After Marc Lafrance made it 2-0, Espanola’s Landon Sanford’s first NOJHL goal came at 10:51 as he let a shot go from the right point off a face-off win that clipped off a Soo player and got by Eagles goalieRyan Gilmore.
Up a skater, three minutes later, Jack Mortson got that back for the Eagles as he had a couple of chances from the right of Boivin before eventually tucking it in.
Going to the power play themselves, Express rookie sensation Ty McHutchion got a piece of a shot from the point provided by high scoring defender Caleb Resch.
The man advantages continued and the Eagles converted once again thanks to Seth Ferguson at 15:48 as he fired one into the open side off a rebound.
The Michigan Soo squad then capped off the outburst thanks to Chase Tallaire as he was left with a tap in off a splendid rush by Mortson who powered his way down the side boards and sent a sharp feed across the crease that was finished off.
In the third, the Eagles wrapped up the scoring in the late going with Dylan Bacholo converting once more on the power play.
Eagles defenceman Isiah Gagerman dished out three assists to help Eagles attack.
Gilmore got the win the Eagles making 35 saves while Boivin faced 49 shots against in defeat.
EAGLES 3, T-BIRDS 2
Eagles forward Seth Ferguson supplied the lone goal in the shootout to help send the Michigan Soo squad to a narrow 3-2 decision over the cross river Soo Thunderbirds before 577 fans at the Pullar.
Picking up a late power play in the first frame helped the Eagles open the scoring as a nice fore check by season long scoring sensation Chase Tallaire allowed Marc LaFrance to send a crisp cross-ice pass over to Jack Mortson, who promptly buried his ninth marker of the season at 19:41.
Going to the middle session, the Thunderbirds tied it at 14:55 after Tyson Doucette was foiled on an opportunity, but Alfred Rotiroti was there to collect the rebound and deposit his first NOJHL marker.
Then a minute later, a surging Brock Santa Maria scored for a fourth straight outing, as he drove down the ice, powered his way to the middle before cutting left and lifting a backhand over top Eagles goalkeeper Gabe Rosek.
The Eagles’ special teams provided the equalizer 5:17 into the third with LaFrance finishing from the slot off some more nice passing while on the power play.
After a scoreless five-minute overtime failed to provide a result, it went to extra attempts to determine a winner.
There, following two misses apiece, Ferguson skated in, made a couple of head fakes, then zipped a shot past Thunderbirds netminder Noah Metivier to give the Eagles the edge and the win.
Rosek then foiled the T-Birds Andrew Gibson on one final opportunity to secure the home ice victory.
The contest saw the Eagles hold the edge in shots by a 37-28 margin with Rosek picking up the win while Metivier suffered the setback but helped his team earn a point.
Heading into play this week, the Thunderbirds are in first place in the West Division of the NOJHL with 32 points from a record of 14-4-4. The Eagles are next with 25 points from a record of 12-4-1 but have five games in on hand on the Thunderbirds. And the Eagles have the better winning percentage at .735 compared to .727 for the Thunderbirds.
Andrew Gibson of the Thunderbirds and Chase Tallaire of the Eagles in puck pursuit. (photo by Rob Horn)