SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A chippy, high-scoring Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League affair Sunday afternoon at John Rhodes Community Centre saw the visiting Espanola Paper Kings outlast the Soo Thunderbirds 7-6.
Espanola had a great chance to open the scoring early as Blake Peters-Davey went in alone on a clear-cut breakaway, only to be foiled by the glove hand of Sault Ste. Marie starter Kolten Bourret.
It was in fact the Thunderbirds who countered on a break of their own as Alex Remenda went in alone while his club was shorthanded and made no mistake by firing a shot high over the glove of Espanola netminder Creedon Dyck.
Still down a skater, the Soo struck again moments later as defenceman Brodie McConnell-Barker jumping into a man-down rush and knocking in a loose puck off a Dharan Cap chance.
Following that, the visitors opted to make a goaltending change, with Jake Marois entering the proceedings for Espanola.
Getting one back midway through the first period with the clubs skating four aside, the Paper Kings’ Spencer Horgan picked off a clearing attempt at the blueline then moved in towards the slot where his quick snap shot beat Bourret.
The goals kept coming as the home side answered that a shift later with Michael Chaffay feeding an open Brock Santa Maria who was left with plenty of room to slam in his eighth of the season.
Another turnover led to a second Espanola marker as Lucas Signoretti scored off an in-close opportunity for his team-leading 31st of the campaign.
On the man advantage to begin the second stanza, the visitors capitalized and drew level when Devin Mauro had time to move in from the left point where his rising wrist shot flew into the top right hand corner.
The Paper Kings then took the lead at 3:48 when Jack Lynes shoveled in a rebound off a Jonathan Lush attempt from the left side.
Espanola then benefitted from another Soo giveaway that allowed Peters-Davey to feed Lynes in close who converted from the top of the crease to put the guests up 5-3.
A fifth straight Paper Kings marker put them up by three as Mauro fired one from a similar spot on the ice, that Alexander Christopoulos was credited with getting a piece of while parked in front of Bourret, while they were on the power play.
Yet another Soo miscue helped Espanola go up 7-3 with Signoretti left with a tap-in off a cross-crease pass from Mauro.
Getting one back late in the frame after controlling a faceoff, the Thunderbirds’ Daniel Beaupre blasted in a one-timer from the high slot.
The T-Birds made it closer five and a half minutes into the third when Wyatt Marlow banged in a rebound off a shot the Paper Kings’ netminder could not contain.
A nice individual rush from the Soo’s Jackson Truchan then made it a 7-6 game and he sped into the Espanola zone and eventually banked one in from a sharp angle with 7:28 to play.
Pressing the pace, the rest of the way and with their goalkeeper out late for an additional skater, the Thunderbirds battled hard for the equalizer in an effort to force overtime, however Espanola held on for the win and a split of their weekend home-and-home set.
With the outcome, the Paper Kings improved to 23-19-2-2 on the season while the Soo slipped to 30-12-3-2.