Fans on hand at the Garson Arena Sunday may have been lulled into a false set of expectations, as the championship finals of the NCMHA (Nickel Centre Minor Hockey) Winterblast provided an unusually high number of lopsided matchups.
The "grand finale", however, would not fit this mold.
For the hockey faithful still on hand for the midget gold medal game, "edge of your seat" excitement would be the norm. The Copper Cliff Braves stormed back from a 5-3 deficit against the Val D'Or Senators, scoring twice in the final minute of play to force overtime, and netting the game-winning goal just 55 seconds into the extra session.
Josh Vaillancourt may have buried the tournament winner, but his chance would never have arrived if not for tallies from Sam Santi and Jared Loyer as the clock ticked down, with the latter sending the Copper Cliff parents into a frenzy with but 0.2 seconds displayed on the scoreboard at the far end of the rink.
It was the second buzzer beater of the game, as Jean-Francois Mercier tucked in a backhand on the breakaway just before the end of the first period, deadlocking the game at 1-1 after Daniel Clarini scored his first of two goals in the encounter.
The Sens moved ahead 3-1 in period two on goals from Jason Godin and Maxim Desrochers, before the fireworks exploded in the final ten minutes of play. Vaillancourt and Clarini scored in a span of 34 seconds, knotting the contest at 3-3, before Val D'Or answered once again, regaining the lead courtesy of Jérome Dufour and Derian Penceway.
The 6-5 win by the Braves was the closest of any final, with three shutouts dotting the linescores in the tournament recap. Nick Labelle posted the whitewash while Gavin Piaskoski scored twice in a 5-0 win for the Coniston Flames over the Nickel Centre Sting in the bantam age grouping.
Marc-André Chabot, Nick Marcoux and Ryan Gladu rounded out the scoring for the winners, as Sting goaltender Thomas Rickard was sensational in the first period, keeping it close, before the relentless attack of the Coniston crew eventually paid dividends.
The Thessalon Eagles were paced by a two-goal performance from Michael Shaw and the shutout netminding of Austin Chillman, blanking the Nickel Centre Peewee Sting 4-0. Zachary Major and Austin Mortimore added one goal each for Thessalon.
A four-goal outing from Grady Jalbert provided ample support for puckstopper William Flarity as the Nickel Centre Jets took the tyke crown with a 6-0 beating of the Rayside-Balfour Tiger Cats.
Carter Baron rounded out the scoring for the Jets, with a pair of tallies. Adam Halman and Akota Eshkibok also scored twice each, allowing Elliot Lake Toppers Pizza to double the Thessalon Eagles 4-2 in the novice final.
Brendan Cooke and Brody Anderson replied in a losing cause for the Eagles. Finally, the Nickel Centre Atom Jets made it a pair of championship banners that would remain at home, downing the Walden Quattro Hawks 5-2.
Nathan Cranston (2), Julien Levac, Parker Tilbury and Carson King handled the scoring for Nickel Centre, while Owen MacDonald countered with both goals for Walden.