Cochrane Crunch crowned NOJHL champions

COCHRANE, Ont. – An Austin Whelan goal 7:13 into double overtime was the game-winner as the Cochrane Crunch edged the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 2-1 in a thrilling, well-played, Game 6 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series Tuesday evening at Tim Horton Event Centre.

With the result, Cochrane wins the NOJHL’s Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy league championship in six games.

The Crunch will now advance to represent the NOJHL at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, May 1-5, in Dryden, Ont.

First period play saw both teams come out hard in an effort to open the scoring with the clubs firing a combined 29 shots on target, but fail to connect offensively.

It stayed without a tally midway into the second stanza where the best chance came at 8:48 of the frame when Rayside-Balfour’s Jacob Partridge was sent in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but was tripped up, resulting in a penalty shot being called.

Partridge coming in on his second penalty shot of the series after winning Game 1 in overtime with a similar fashion, skated in on Cochrane goalkeeper Shayne Battler, but was denied thanks to a solid glove save.

The Crunch had chances to get on the board thanks to some power play chances, including a two-man advantage, however Canadians’ netminder Brayden Lachance stood tall to have it remain 0-0 half-way through the night.

The home side would eventually break the deadlock late in the second period during a man advantage as Connor Lovie worked the puck into the Rayside-Balfour and left it for Alex Brisson, who in turn sent a cross-ice pass over to a waiting defenceman Noah Bennett who one-timed a blast that flew into the net to give Cochrane a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Pressing hard for the equalizer in the third, Rayside-Balfour picked up a pair of power plays, that included a two-man advantage that resulted in the visitors tying the contest at 8:20.

After the first penalty had expired, red-hot rookie Jacob Partridge drew his club level as he banged in a loose puck from close range to give him points in eight straight playoff contests.

It remained closely contested from there throughout the remainder of regulation as extra time was required for the third time in the series.

After a goalless first OT, the capacity crowd in Cochrane was sent into a frenzy in the second extra session as Bennett kept in a clearing attempt at the left point, fired the puck to the front of the net where Whelan spun in front and stuffed the decider past Lachance to give the Crunch their first-ever NOJHL championship.

Both netminders were stellar throughout the exciting series and on a night where Cochrane outshot their opponents 68-63.

NOJHL Playoffs

Series I
Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. Cochrane Crunch
Cochrane wins best-of-seven series 4-2
Game 1: Rayside-Balfour 2 Cochrane 1 (OT)
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 4 Cochrane 1
Game 3: Cochrane 8 Rayside-Balfour 2
Game 4: Cochrane 4 Rayside-Balfour 3 (OT)
Game 5: Cochrane 3 Rayside-Balfour 2
Game 6: Cochrane 2 Rayside-Balfour 1 (2 OT)