ESPANOLA, Ont. – Cameron Walker’s third goal of the game, coming with 34.9 seconds remaining, was the difference as the Espanola Express pulled out a dramatic 4-3 win over the Soo Thunderbirds in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play Saturday afternoon at the Regional Recreation Complex.
A first period power play saw Espanola take advantage as following a Devon Savignac attempt towards the net, Walker collected the loose puck and eventually potted the day’s initial tally.
First-year forward Colton Wiciak then collected a memorable initial NOJHL goal at 15:26 as his impressive rush up the ice, from deep in his own zone, saw him skate just over the Thunderbirds blueline before unleashing a blast that eluded Soo starter Scott Young to extend the lead for the hosts.
Answering late in the frame, the visitors got one back that was completed by Tyson Doucette in front off a right point shot from Cameron Dutkiewicz.
Play in the second period was tightly contested and went scoreless as Espanola carried their 2-1 lead into the third.
Down a skater to begin the final frame, Sault Ste. Marie converted while shorthanded just 19 seconds in as Parker Morgan buried his first league marker into the right corner with a quick snap shot after being set-up in the slot by Doucette, who had forced a turnover.
Then on the man advantage two minutes later, the Thunderbirds went in front courtesy of Dutkiewicz as he pounced on a loose puck in the left circle and fired in his club’s third tally of the day.
Back and forth they went and the Express battled back to level the proceedings as Walker, fresh off the bench on a line change, roared down the left wing and skated into a perfect cross-ice pass before ripping in the equalizer at 11:48.
Then late in regulation and a shootout looming, Espanola pulled out the dramatic decision while on a power play as Walker finished off his hat trick after being set-up on a nice end-to-end rush by James Eng before moving in on top of Soo goaltender and chipping in the game-winner from close range.
A 42-save effort by Express netminder Luke Beally helped him collect his first NOJHL victory.
Young meanwhile, was also busy, seeing 43 attempts fired his way in suffering a narrow setback.
Game Photos: Chelsea Solomon