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GALLERY: Espanola holds off French River

Photos: Jeremy Seguin

FRENCH RIVER – The Espanola Paper Kings built up a solid lead Saturday before having to hold off a French River Rapids comeback bid and eventually winning 4-3 in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play at Noelville Arena.

It was the visiting Paper Kings who got on the board first in this one as they worked a play behind the goal line and ultimately put it in front by Jonathan Lush to a waiting Kyle den Ouden, who jammed it by Rapids’ netminder Matthew Perdue nearly 12 minutes into the contest.

Taking their 1-0 lead into the middle frame, Espanola countered in transition off a French River chance to go up by a pair.

That saw Benjamin Lacroix wheel out of the corner and fire a low attempt along the ice under Perdue at 3:17.

The home side came right back a minute and a half late to cut the deficit in half when Will Bourre chipped in a loose puck to the left of a sprawling Paper Kings’ goalkeeper Creedon Dyck, who was tangled up with one of his own players in the crease.

Regaining their two-tally edge near the midway point of the proceedings, Lush connected on the power play for Espanola as he corralled a Will Bishop attempt from the point and moved to his left prior to flipping in his seventh point in his past five periods of play.

It was more from the visitors at 15:08 of the frame when Atley Gringorten banged in the rebound off a Graydon Guthrie wrist shot from the right circle.

With the Paper Kings up by three entering the third, the chippy final frame saw the Rapids strike twice on the latter stages of the contest to make it interesting, right until the end.

Connor Picard was sent in alone on a shorthanded breakaway and connected by making a couple of quick moves before beating the Espanola netminder at 15:42.

French River then got one more in the final moments from Josh Russell to round out the scoring as he was initially thwarted on a break, but gathered the puck and spun while sliding it under Dyck with his eighth goal of the season.

They had one final chance to tie it before the final buzzer sounded with a late man advantage, but the guests held on for the narrow road victory.