John Kleinhans stole the show with a 44-save performance as the Soo Thunderbirds opened the 2012 RBC Cup with an unlikely 2-1 victory over
the Penticton Vees on Saturday afternoon.
Kleinhans’ second consecutive stand-on-his-head performance earned the Thunderbirds the win in their debut at the National Junior A Championship; the goaltender stopped 44 of 47 shots in the Soo’s 5-3 victory over Stouffville in the final of the Dudley Hewitt Cup, the Central Region championship, back on April 21.
James Delayer scored the game-winner with 8:34 to go on a Thunderbirds power play, stepping over the blue line and wiring a wrist shot that went off the far post and in past Penticton goaltender Michael Garteig, who made 13 saves in a losing cause.
Jake Wright had the other goal for the Soo (1-0), opening the scoring by banging a loose puck past Garteig during a scramble in front of the Penticton net midway through the first period.
Joey Benik scored the lone goal for Penticton (0-1), banking a shot off Kleinhans from behind the net late in the second period. The loss is just the 11th in 81 games for the Vees this season, including regular season, playoffs and the Doyle Cup.
Penticton is just the third Pacific Region champion in the last eight years to lose its opening game at the national championship. The other two – Burnaby in 2006 and Vernon in 2010 – finished the tournament by hoisting the RBC Cup.
The Vees look to rebound against the host Humboldt Broncos in Sunday’s night cap (6:30 p.m. PT) while the Thunderbirds return to the ice Sunday afternoon when they take on the debuting Portage Terriers (2 p.m. PT).