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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018
Cochrane rallies to tie the series
by Randy Pascal

Rayside-Balfour Canadians head coach Steve Lauzon gave the Cochrane Crunch plenty of ammunition last week.

His team leading the NOJHL best of seven final two games to none, the almunus of the league as a player virtually dared the Crunch to see if they could win even one game against the Canadians.

"I expect to win the series in Cochrane," Lauzon stated confidently in a Sudbury Star interview early last week. "I've got an injection of some strength on the back end and some speed and skill with probably our most skilled forward coming back, so Cochrane is going to have a hard time handling what we throw at them Thursday and again on Friday."

The only real question that remained was exactly how the Crunch would respond to the comments.

The answer came early. By the 6:57 mark of the first period of game three, Cochrane had blasted to a 3-0 lead, en route to a convincing 8-2 win. Kyle Herbster paced the homeside with a hat trick, with Zach Hayes, Levi Johnson, Austin Whelan, T.J. Delaney and Thomas Hernandez all getting in on the act as well.

Kyle Liinamaa and Noah Serre countered for the Canadians, outshot 53-35 on the night. And while game four proved much closer, the reality for the Rayside gents is that they are returning home tied at two, after Cochrane recorded a 4-3 overtime win on Thursday.

Caleb Dolman netted the game-winning goal seven minutes into the extra session as the teams see-sawed their way through three periods of fairly even hockey. Gabriel Rheault opened the scoring for Rayside midway through the first, with Dolman getting that one back with just a second remaining in the period.

Hernandez managed the only tally of the middle stanza, giving the Crunch the lead, but Jacob Partridge would deadlock the contest at 2-2 with a power-play goal at 3:16 of the third. Forty-three seconds later, Laramie Kostelansky restored the Cochrane advantage.

Captain Matt Neault would force overtime, pulling Rayside even with 12:15 still to play, setting the stage for the Dolman heroics in overtime. One night after giving way to Jean-Marc Brisson in the third period of the lopsided loss, Rayside netminder Brayden Lachance was back on top of his game, turning aside 53 shots, with Shane Battler stopping 34 for Cochrane.

Game five goes Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. in Chelmsford.

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