LITTLE CURRENT, Ont. – The Cochrane Crunch trio of Austin Whelan, Trent Grimshaw and Nicolas Flanders combined for 13 points to lead their side to a 9-5 high-scoring decision over the Espanola Express in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League neutral site contest held Friday at the Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands Recreation Centre in Little Current.
Cochrane got off to a strong start by grabbing a 2-0 lead in the first period on markers by Ethan Emanuel and Grimshaw.
Connor Tessier did get one back for Espanola before the first frame was complete as he picked up his third of the season.
An action-packed second stanza saw the two sides combine for eight goals, including five by the Crunch.
Whelan had three of the tallies for Cochrane to give him a hat trick while Samuel Vachon’s first in his NOJHL debut and Hunter Buzzi accounted for the other two markers.
Countering for the Express in the session were Bret McInall with a pair as he scored for a fifth straight outing while Mitchell added a single.
Justin Bofshever, at even strength, and Buzzi shorthanded both found the back of the net again in the third for Cochrane before Espanola’s Nick Belisle rounded out the scoring with under five minutes to play.
Flanders’ five-assist night also saw him extend a consecutive game point streak to eight straight outings.
Carson Boutin stopped 20 of 21 in relief to record the win for the Crunch while Bradley Dobson allowed four against on 15 attempts in nearly 29 minutes of work.
Joel Rainville started for the Express and suffered the loss giving up seven on 31 chances while Andrew Rocha handled 21 of 23 through close to 28 minutes of action.