CHELMSFORD, Ont. – A Jacob Partridge penalty shot goal 17:35 into the first overtime was the decider as the Rayside-Balfour Canadians edged the Cochrane Crunch 2-1 in a barn-burner of a Game 1 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series Friday evening in front of a near capacity crowd of 523 at Chelmsford Arena.
Rayside-Balfour, skating in their first NOJHL final since 2002, opened the scoring in the series three minutes in as Evan Krassey fed James White, who walked in on Cochrane starter Shayne Battler and snapped a shot in that gave the home side the lead three minutes into the contest.
A free-wheeling session saw the visitors best chance in the first come with just over five minutes remaining in the frame as Nicolas Flanders was in alone on Brayden Lachance in the Canadians net only to be denied by his right pad.
Moments later Taylor Woolcott was sent in on a breakaway but the Rayside-Balfour forward was thwarted on a big glove save by Battler.
Missing the NOJHL’s leading point getter in the playoffs, Kyle Liinamaa, in the series opener, the Canadians were held to just six shots on net while the Crunch fired 16 on Lachance.
Moving on to the second stanza, Cochrane would draw level at 3:58 as Thomas Hernandez let loose with a one-timer from the point during a man advantage opportunity as his heavy blast flew past Lachance with a screen in front to knot the affair at 1-1.
From there the rest of the frame was scoreless as was the remainder of regulation thanks to the quality goaltending of Battler and Lachance.
Moving on to OT, it was Rayside-Balfour who would prevail as they were awarded the penalty shot attempt after the Cochrane net was knocked off causing a stoppage in play.
With Partridge getting the nod to take the chance, he made no mistake as he skated in and lifted the game-winner over the glove of Battler and in to give the Canadians the Game 1 victory in dramatic fashion.
Lachance was brilliant in net to record the decision as he finished with 53 stops to earn the triumph.
Battler suffered the hard-luck setback for the Crunch seeing 31 shots against in the narrow defeat.
Game 2 goes Saturday back in Chelmsford at 7 p.m.
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
Rayside-Balfour leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Rayside-Balfour 2 Cochrane 1 (OT)
Game 2: Saturday, April 14 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 3: Thursday, April 19 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
Game 4: Friday, April 20 @ Cochrane 7 p.m. (Tim Horton Event Centre)
Game 5*: Sunday, April 22 @ Rayside-Balfour 4 p.m. (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
Photo courtesy of Rob and Caleigh Fera: www.sudburylight.ca