COCHRANE, Ont. – Caleb Dolman’s second goal of the game, coming seven minutes into overtime, was the difference as the Cochrane Crunch edged the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 4-3 in Game 4 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series Friday evening at Tim Horton Event Centre.
With the outcome, this best-of-seven final is now tied at two wins apiece heading into Game 5 Sunday at 4 p.m. at Chelmsford Arena. Game 6 meanwhile will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. back in Cochrane.
The first man advantage opportunity of the night helped Rayside-Balfour open the scoring as Gabriel Rheault knocked in the rebound of a Jordan Spadafore shot from the left point at 9:03.
Jacob Partridge picked up the second assist on the play to give him points in six straight outings and eight of his past nine playoff contests.
Cochrane picked up a dramatic equalizer in the waning moments of the first period as Caleb Dolman backhanded in a power play marker just prior to the frame expiring following a clean Crunch face-off win by Thomas Hernandez back to Connor Lovie whose attempt on net was put in by Dolman from the top of the crease.
The home side then went in front six minutes into the middle session as Gordon Whalen teed one up for Hernandez inside the blueline as the defender one-time a blast that went high on Brayden Lachance in the Canadians’ net.
Later in the frame, Cochrane had a chance to extend their lead on a Marcus Blackned penalty shot, but his attempt rolled off his stick and slide harmlessly into the corner.
Moving on to the third, Rayside-Balfour drew level during a power play as Partridge was left unmarked to the side of the net and had a tap-in for his seventh of the postseason at 3:16.
However, the Crunch came right back and went back in front 43 seconds later on the initial even strength effort of the night when Laramie Kostelansky caught Lachance leaning off his post and banked in the go ahead marker.
The back and forth affair saw the visitors tie it once more as Matthew Neault snagged a loose puck, spun and fired the tying tally over Battler at 7:45.
Both clubs had quality chances to get the decider late in regulation only to be denied by the goaltenders.
However, moving on to OT, it was Cochrane who would prevail as an open Dolman took a cross-ice feed from Kostelansky and quickly wired the winner into the open side past Lachance to end it and even the series at 2-2.
Lovie dished out two assists on the night to aid the Cochrane offensive cause.
The Crunch outshot the Canadians 57-37 in the contest with Battler picking up the win while Lachance suffered the loss.
The NOJHL champion will advance to represent the league at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, May 1-5, in Dryden, Ont.
All NOJHL postseason contests are streamed online live and on demand via HockeyTV.com.
Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. Cochrane Crunch
Best-of-seven series tied 2-2
Game 1: Rayside-Balfour 2 Cochrane 1 (OT)
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 4 Cochrane 1
Game 3: Cochrane 8 Rayside-Balfour 2
Game 4: Cochrane 4 Rayside-Balfour 3 (OT)
Game 5: Sunday, April 22 @ Rayside-Balfour (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 6: Tuesday, April 24 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
Game7*: Thursday, April 26 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
*- if necessary