SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Matthew Minichiello had a pair of goals, including picking up the game-winner with under seven minutes to play, as the Cochrane Crunch held off the Elliot Lake Wildcats by a 3-2 score in the final game of Day 1 at the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League Showcase at Big Bear Arena.
Cochrane came hard at Elliot Lake in the opening 20 minutes and were rewarded with markers from Billy Paschen and Minichiello, who buried one from the high slot.
The efforts of Elliot Lake goalkeeper Parker Simpson kept the Wildcats in it and it allowed his side to cut into the deficit as Nicholas Jameus notched his first NOJHL goal, which came at 12:23 of the second stanza.
Despite a large edge in shots, the Crunch only held the 2-1 lead moving to the third frame.
They did collect the eventual difference maker13:13 as Minichiello bagged his second of the night as he scored from close to the same spot he notched his first.
Continuing to battle, Elliot Lake drew to within one with 73 seconds remaining when Connor Taylor jammed in his 25th career goal and also extended a consecutive game point streak to seven.
The Wildcats managed to pull Simpson twice in the final minute for an extra skater, but Cochrane held on for the narrow triumph.
Crunch goalkeeper Zach Wickson made 33 saves to register the win while Simpson faced 45 attempts while suffering a narrow setback.
Day 2 of the NOJHL goes Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m., back at Big Bear Arena.