Cochrane Crunch capture NOJHL crown
by Randy Pascal
In a span of ten days, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians went from looking to be in control of their NOJHL best of seven championship final with the
Cochrane Crunch, to being on the outside of the Dudley Hewitt Cup festivities, looking in.
A four game losing skid at the worst possible time was capped off with a heart-breaking 2-1 double overtime loss Tuesday night in Cochrane, ending the
deepest NOJHL playoff run for a local entry in quite some time.
Like most of the games in this series, the finale was a low-scoring, tight checking affair, the contest remaining scoreless until the very late stages of
the middle stanza. A missed penalty shot by Jacob Patridge midway through the frame looked to be costly when the Crunch opened the scoring, with the
man advantage, with 1:19 to play as Noah Bennett pulled the trigger.
But the visitors would battle their way back in the third, as Patridge continued his torrid pace in the final, scoring on the power-play at 8:20 of the final
frame. Well, turns out it wouldn't quite be the final frame, as Cochrane and Rayside kept fans riveted to their seats for more than 28 minutes of overtime
action before Austin Whelan sent the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
The story of the game might well have been goaltenders Shayne Battler (Cochrane) and Brayden Lachance (Rayside), the pair combining for a
total of 128 saves, broken up almost dead even.
The setback was the third straight by just one goal for coach Steve Lauzon and company, who swept the first weekend by scores of 2-1 and 4-1,
before seeing the Crunch rally with victories of 8-2, 4-3, 3-2 and 2-1, two of the final three in overtime.
Cochrane moves on to represent the NOJHL at the 2018 Dudley Hewitt Cup in Dryden, from May 1st to the 5th. The Crunch will join the Wellington
Dukes (OJHL), Thunder Bay North Stars (SJHL) and host Dryden Ice Dogs.