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Smyl paces Thunderbirds to big road win

Cooper Smyl scored three times as the Soo Thunderbirds beat the Blind River Beavers on Sunday afternoon
2021-02-26 Thunderbirds vs. Blind River BD NOJHL
File photo. Action from an NOJHL game between the Soo Thunderbirds and Blind River Beavers at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

For the second time in less than 48 hours, Cooper Smyl helped pace the Soo Thunderbirds to a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League victory.

After scoring the shootout winner on Friday night at the John Rhodes Community Centre, Smyl scored three times on Sunday afternoon as the Thunderbirds beat the Blind River Beavers 7-2 at the Blind River Community Centre.

With the win, the Thunderbirds have won three straight since returning to the ice after an extended league layoff due to COVID-19.

Justin Mauro opened the scoring in the contest when he got Blind River on the board 6:28 in, scoring on a rebound after Thunderbirds goaltender Alex Bugeja made the initial save on a shot by Lucas Adams.

With the Thunderbirds trailing 1-0 in the opening period, Smy got the visitors on the board when he tapped in a feed from Brock Santa Maria in close just over 12 minutes into the contest.

The goal opened a stretch that saw the Thunderbirds score four times in the final eight minutes of the period to open up a 4-1 lead through one period.

Parker Morgan scored 1:56 after Smyl to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead when he beat Beavers goaltender Wyatt Courchaine from the left circle short side at the 14-minute mark.

Smyl then made it 3-1 with 2:02 to go in the opening period when he scored on a penalty shot.

Defenceman Cam Dutkiewicz capped off the scoring in the opening period when his shot from the right point found its way through traffic 13 seconds later.

The two clubs traded goals in the second period.

Thunderbirds blueliner Connor Toms made it 5-1 when he beat Courchaine with a shot from the top of the left circle glove side 4:37 into the frame.

Matt Cato made it 5-2 when he beat Bugeja with a wraparound with 3:31 to go in the period.

Goals by Smyl and Ty Zachary in the third period capped off the scoring for the Thunderbirds.

Zachary’s goal came when the rookie forward jumped on a loose puck in close and beat Courchaine 8:06 into the frame.

Smyl capped off the three-goal night  with just under eight minutes to go when he beat the Beavers netminder high glove side with a shot from the left faceoff circle.

Bugeja made 23 saves for the Thunderbirds while Courchaine stopped 36 shots for Blind River.

Zachary and Toms had a goal and an assist each while Russell Oldham chipped in offensively with a pair of assists for the Thunderbirds.

Playing as a cohort, the Thunderbirds and Beavers will return to action on Tuesday night in a 7 p.m. start at the John Rhodes Community Centre.

Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
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