Beavers beat defending NOJHL champion T-Birds

If anything is consistent about the 2012 Blind River Beavers it is that they are guaranteed to be inconsistent.

                Just one week after being soundly defeated by the cellar-dwelling Abitibi Eskimos at home, the Beavers rebounded with a stunning 5-4 overtime victory over the league-leading and defending Northern Ontario Junior “A” Hockey League champion Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds in the Soo last Friday. The next night, the Beavers dominated most of the game before settling for a 3-3 overtime tie with the second-place North Bay Trappers in Blind River.

                The Beavers were full value for their victory over the T-Birds, as they out-shot the Soo squad 35-26 and held the lead until Brandon Warmington scored to knot the score at 4-4 with just 2:05 remaining in regulation time. Rather than dwelling on the late goal, the Beavers steadied themselves and won the game in the first overtime session on Corey McEwen’s goal from Brandon Bazinet.

                Two newcomers to Blind River’s lineup conspired to give the Beavers a 1-0 lead midway through the first period, as Myckauly Melanson set up Zach Pease for the first goal of the night. Josh Borgen of the Thunderbirds scored on the power-play minutes later to tie the game at 1-1 heading to the first intermission.

                The Beavers got busy early in the second period and worked their way to a 4-1 advantage on goals by Melanson, Scott Marshall and Paul Muio. However, the defending champs stormed back late in the period on goals by Greg Sartoretto and Derek Battagin to cut Blind River’s lead to just 4-3 with one period to go.

                Solid goaltending by Aaron Cormier kept the T-Birds at bay until Battagin and Fraser Turner set up Warmington for the tying goal late in the third stanza. The teams battled on even terms for the rest of regulation time and through four minutes of four-on-four overtime play until McEwen stepped up to play the role of the hero on the winning goal.

                Diligent forechecking by the Beavers was the key on the winning goal, as the Beavers pinned the talented Thunderbirds deep in their end. Finally, after Bazinet fired a shot on goal, McEwen jammed the rebound under Soo goalie Joel Horodziejczyk to lift Blind River to the upset victory.

                The following evening in Blind River, the Beavers got off to a terrible start as goals by Duane Wainman and Samuel Blanchet put North Bay up 2-0 less than four minutes after the opening face-off. Rather than hang their heads in dismay, the Beavers elevated their game and got back into the contest on a goal by Bazinet to trail just 2-1 after the opening period.

                McEwen knotted the score at 2-2 early in the second period, but the size and strength of the Trappers appeared to wear down the Beavers as the period wore on. Finally, with just 2:29 to go in the second stanza, Cole Klippenstein fired a high shot past Brandon Currie in the Beaver goal to put the Trappers up 3-2 heading to the second intermission.

                Once again, the Beavers were able to find more gas in the tank and picked up their play in the third period. Just 2:11 into the frame, Cray Roberge picked up the rebound of a blocked shot and ripped a shot over the arm of Greg Dobbs in the North Bay net to tie the score at 3-3.

                Blind River continued to press and carried the play to the Trappers for the remainder of the third period and throughout two overtime sessions. Despite generating the majority of the scoring chances, the Beavers were unable to beat Dodds and settled for the draw, completing a pair of outstanding efforts against the two top teams in the NOJHL this season.

                The Beavers now sit in fifth place in the seven-team NOJHL, with a record of three wins, seven regulation-time losses, one tie and one overtime loss for a total of eight points. The Thunderbirds, Trappers and Sudbury Nickel Barons are battling for the top spot in the standings, with Kirkland Lake solidly entrenched in fourth place and the Beavers, Abitibi Eskimos and Elliot Lake Bobcats all trying to claw their way out of the cellar.

                The Beavers will try to move up in the standings as they take to the road this weekend for a pair of games. On Friday, Blind River faces off against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, while on Saturday the Beavers take on the Abitibi Eskimos in Iroquois Falls.

                The next home game for the Beavers comes on Saturday, October 27, as Blind River takes on Kirkland Lake.