Malek Belhaj (right) celebrates with Matt McCarron after scoring the opener on Saturday. He's scored five goals so far this season

The men’s soccer team trumped the Sault Cougars 8-0 in the home opener on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Malek Belhaj, who bagged four goals in the previous game against Fleming, opened the scoring for his team in the 10th minute. Latching on to a lofted pass down the left channel, he found himself in behind the defence to slot the ball between the legs of the Cougar’s keeper, Tyler Davie.

A missed penalty a few minutes later denied him his second goal.

“It’s a miss, but it won’t stop me from scoring next time,” said Belhaj with a grin.

Belhaj’s form leaves Thunder midfielder Ebrahim Al-Ariky with high expectations this season.

“He is going to bring up my stats for sure,” said Al-Ariky.

The Thunder made it 2-0 just before the break. Sault was unable to clear an Algonquin cross from the right-wing.

Only two of Thunder’s eight goals came in the first half.

“We started out, I think, really slow and soft,” said Thunder head coach Mike Gagliano. “In the second half, we came out with a little bit more intensity and actually tried to convert things.”

Thunder striker Michael Iliopoulos extended the lead after the interval, scoring in the 50th and 54th minute.

His efforts were topped by Thunder winger Matt McCarron, who managed to get his brace in the span of a minute with two nearly identical goals.

Saturday’s win puts the Thunder at the top of the league. The men are tied in points with Centennial and Durham but scored more goals than both combined.

“We always need to be first in everything,” said Gagliano. “This year, I think we have a good crop and I am expecting them to have that desire to keep a clean sheet and score as many goals as possible.”

The Thunder’s next home game will be against Cambrian College on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 3:15 p.m.