SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Giordano Biondi was the recipient of a batted down clearing attempt that resulted in him scoring the game-winner 4:21 into overtime as the Rayside-Balfour Canadians held off a trio of power play markers notched by the Soo Thunderbirds before ultimately prevailing with a 4-3 triumph Sunday evening in Game 2 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.
With the result, this best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1 as the action shifts to Chelmsford Arena for Game 3 Wednesday at 7 p.m.
An early man advantage helped Sault Ste. Marie start strong as Brady Caruso and Spencer Van Tiem helped set-up captain Kaidan McDonald for his fourth of the playoffs as he also extended a point streak to four outings in succession, three and a half minutes in.
Rayside-Balfour answered with a extra man marker of their own 11 minutes into the second stanza with Brett McGlade firing one high over the glove of Soo starter Colin Ahern.
The Canadians then took their first lead of the series at 16:11 of the frame on a Chase Stillman blast from the left faceoff circle.
It didn’t take the Thunderbirds long to counter with the equalizer though as Matthew Bazarin connected with snap shot while parked to the right of David Bowen for his club’s second power play goal of the night.
Heading into the third, the visitors went back on top at 11:36 with Rayside-Balfour captain Evan Krassey letting one go from the right wing that skipped off the glove of Ahern and trickled into the net.
Then in the final minute of regulation, on a late man advantage, and with their netminder on the bench for an additional attacker, the Soo forced extra time as Nolan Ford put one across the blueline over to Steven Bellini whose long range effort from the right point sailed through a couple of bodies in front and found the top left hand corner with 47 seconds left to send it to OT.
However, in the initial extra period, Joel Mongeon knocked down a clearing attempt that was collected by Stillman, who fed Biondi, who in turn rifled home the game-winner and evened the series at a win apiece.
Mongeon and Ryan Mooney had two assists each for the Canadians.
Bowen finished with 32 saves to record the win for RBC while Ahern saw 22 attempts directed at him in defeat.
NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Best-of-seven series tied 1-1
Game 1: Soo 4 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 4 Soo 3 (OT)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 3 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 4: Thursday, April 4 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 5: Saturday, April 6 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (GFL Memorial Gardens)
Game 6*: Monday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 10 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Rod Aubertin – SSM Photos