Photos: Justin Cairns
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – An Alex Freund goal, off a fortuitous bounce off the ends boards, nearly two minutes into overtime, lifted the Soo Eagles to a 5-4 win over the Greater Sudbury Cubs Friday in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at Pullar Stadium.
A flurry of activity saw three tallies scored before the match-up was four minutes old as the Eagles took an early 2-1 lead.
Colin Handy started the outburst for Sault Ste. Marie at 3:18 as his harmless looking play off the boards from the other end of the ice slowly slid down and somehow found its way under a surprised Joel Rainville in the Greater Sudbury net.
Coming right back, the Cubs tied it on the next shift with Billy Biedermann moving in a lifting a backhand past Soo starter Gabe Rosek.
Then moments later, the Eagles retook the lead with a third marker by the teams, just 38 seconds apart, compliments of Chase Tallaire sharply picking the left corner on Rainville from the high slot.
A third Soo effort came deep in the period as a loose puck lay in the crease that Tyler Culleton located and lifted over a sprawled Rainville as part of a scrum in close.
After coming up dry on a lengthy two-man advantage early in the second stanza, Greater Sudbury did convert moments after it expired as Christopher Innes fired a shot from the point that was neatly redirected in by Jaxon Bedard, stationed in front of Rosek.
Continuing to battle, the visitors tied it with another from Bedard as he notched his second of the period, as he guided one in from the right of the crease.
Regaining the lead, the Eagles’ Sam Holy joined the rush from his defensive position and found himself unmarked in front of the net, which let him snap one into the top left-hand corner to make it 4-3 after two.
Heading to the final frame, the Cubs drew level once more at 5:52 after a Mathieu Morin rush into the Soo zone helped Innes chop in a rising-backhand from the left of Rosek to tie it at 4-4.
Then early into the first extra session, the Soo won it as Freund’s own dump in off the end boards skipped right in front of the net where he arrived in time to chip in the game-winner over Rainville to end it at 1:59.
The clubs are right back at it Saturday with a 7 p.m. start at Pullar Stadium for Game 2.
NOJHL West Division semifinal
Soo Eagles vs. Greater Sudbury Cubs
Soo leads best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Eagles 5 Cubs 4 (OT)
Game 2: Saturday, April 9 @ Soo 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 3: Monday, April 11 @ Greater Sudbury 7 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 4: Tuesday, April 12 @ Greater Sudbury 7 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 5*: Wednesday, April 13 @ Soo 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 6*: Friday, April 15 @ Greater Sudbury 7 p.m. (Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex)
Game 7*: Saturday, April 16 @ Soo 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)