Canadians climb back into share of 1st in NOJHL West with win over Express

CHELMSFORD, Ont. – A well-balanced offensive display saw the Rayside-Balfour Canadians get goals from eight different skaters as they went on to handle the Espanola Express 9-3 in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League contest Thursday evening at Chelmsford Arena.

The victory moves the Canadians back into tie for top spot in NOJHL’s West Division with the idle Blind River Beavers with both clubs now boasting 62 points and 29 wins apiece.

Espanola did get off to a great start though in this one as Alex Simard scored 32 seconds into the first period.

However, Rayside-Balfour rebounded with a trio of tallies before the session was out as Giordano Biondi and Matthew Belanger connected just over a half minute apart while Mitchell Martin made it 3-1 at 14:52.

Obstructed by a hook while in alone on Express netminder Joel Rainville, Canadians captain Zachary Snow was awarded a penalty shot and the veteran defenceman made no mistake snapping a shot low blocker side at 6:35 to put the home side up by three.

A late power play helped provide another marker as rookie forward Nicholas DeGrazia hit the 20-goal plateau at 18:46.

Rayside-Balfour clicked once more as Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis bulled his way in right off the opening faceoff to commence the final stanza as he went top shelf from the left side just seven seconds in.

Not done there, Joel Mongeon made it 7-1 on the next shift while Benjamin Hatanaka added to the onslaught moments later.

Picking up a four-minute man advantage, Espanola converted on both man advantage opportunities that saw Zachary Matyasik and Cameron Walker find the back of the net for the visitors.

Dokis-Dupuis then rounded out the scoring with just over five minutes remaining with his second of the evening and 16th overall.

David Bowen made 29 stops to collect the victory for the Canadians, who improved to 5-0 in January and 7-0-0-1 in their past eight outings.

Carson Boutin started for the Express and allowed three on 11 attempts in just under 15 minutes of playing time while Rainville suffered the defeat in relief saving 27 of 33 along the way.

The two teams will finish off a home-and-home Friday night in Espanola in a 7:30 p.m. start at the Regional Recreation Complex.

MAKE-UP DATE: The NOJHL has also announced that the January 18 contest between the Express and Soo Thunderbirds that was postponed due to inclement weather, will now be held on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Game time is 7 p.m.