KIRKLAND LAKE, Ont. – The Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) will have the opportunity to defend their Dudley-Hewitt Cup crown they won a year ago.
The Thunderbirds got a goal and two assists from rookie forward Darian Pilon to help propel them to a 4-1 victory over the host Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (NOJHL) Friday in semifinal play Friday evening at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
Sault Ste. Marie will now take on the unbeaten Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL) in Saturday’s title game, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m. back in Kirkland Lake.
The Soo got going offensively by capitalizing on a two-on-one near the six-minute mark of the first period as Pilon saucered a nice pass from the right side over to Nathan Hebert, who snapped his attempt over the blocker of Kirkland Lake starter Joe Marcouiller.
The Thunderbirds outshot the Gold Miners 18-12 in the frame, which included a big glove save by a sprawling Marcouiller on defenceman Caleb Boman just as time was set to expire in the frame.
Action in the middle session saw the T-Birds go up by a pair four and a half minutes into the stanza as Pilon picked up his second assist of the night as he dished a feed from the end boards in front to Ryan Mulligan who chipped it out of mid-air on a backhand attempt high into the net for the eventual game-winner to make it 2-0.
Kirkland Lake got that back at 8:10 of the second as Logan Fredericks scooped up the puck off a clearing attempt and spun and fired a quick shot from the right face-off dot that whipped past Connor Ryckman in the Soo net for his fifth of the tournament.
A fortuitous bounce allowed the Soo to restore their two-tally cushion three and a half minutes later as Matthew Caruso put a chance from the corner along the goal line towards the Gold Miners net that banked off Marcouiller and in from a sharp angle to make it a 3-1 game after 40 minutes.
An early two-man advantage gave Kirkland Lake an opportunity to get back into it, but the T-Birds defensive corps withstood the challenge to keep it at 3-1.
The ever-stingy Soo side buckled down and kept the Gold Miners off the board the rest of the way.
Kirkland Lake did pull their goaltender in favour of an extra attacker with three minutes to go, but Pilon capped off his three-point night with an empty netter in the final seconds to round out the scoring.
Player of the game laurels went to Pilon of the Thunderbirds and Joel Fortin of the Gold Miners.
Ryckman finished with 34 stops to record the win while Marcoullier handled 42 of 45 in defeat for Kirkland Lake.
The Dudley-Hewitt Cup winner will advance to represent the Central region at RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship May 14-22 in Lloydminster, Alta.
For more information on the Dudley-Hewitt Cup visit the official CJHL – DHC website at centralcanadianchampionship.com.
All Dudley-Hewitt Cup games are available online at FASTHockey.com.
2016 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Schedule/Results
May 3-7 – Kirkland Lake, Ont.
All games at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex
Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (Host-NOJHL)
Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL)
Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL)
Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL)
Tuesday, May 3
Trenton 4 Soo 2
Kirkland Lake 8 Fort Frances 5
Wednesday, May 4
Soo 6 Fort Frances 5
Trenton 5 Kirkland Lake 1
Thursday, May 5
Trenton 3 Fort Frances 0
Soo 3 Kirkland Lake 2
Friday, May 6
Semifinal: Soo 4 Kirkland Lake 1
Saturday, May 7
Final: Soo vs. Trenton 7:30 p.m.
DHC winner advances to the RBC Cup Canadian Jr. A Championship May 14-22 at Lloydminster, Alta.