Eagles secure No. 3 seed in West with win over Wildcats

BLIND RIVER, Ont. – Dominic Skrelja scored three times to record his first Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League hat trick while Shane Brancato kicked out all 28 shots he faced to notch his third shutout of the season as the Soo Eagles blanked the Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-0 Sunday in a neutral site affair held at the Blind River Community Centre.

The contest was played in Blind River as the Wildcats home venue, Centennial Arena in Elliot Lake, remains closed as crew work on clearing ice and snow from the roof of the building and making sure it is structurally sound.

The result means the Eagles will finish third in the NOJHL West standings and will take on the No. 2 Rayside-Balfour Canadians in a best-of-seven divisional semifinal with that game schedule to be announced in the coming days.

As for No. 5 Elliot Lake, they’ll square off with No. 4 Blind River in a best-of-three West Division play-in survivor series with the winner of that meeting the No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds in the other West semifinal.

That series docket will also be released once it is finalized.

Sunday’s contest was scoreless as the two teams hit the first intermission at 0-0.

Sault Ste. Marie gained the upper hand in the second stanza by tallying twice on markers Raf Praysner and Skrelja.

The Eagles then put it away by striking four times in the final frame to wrap-up the decision.

Scoring for the Soo in the session were Jake Lamberty, Charley Hanewall at even strength while Skrelja added another as he converted on a man advantage opportunity then rounded out the scoring with his third of the night and 18th overall into an empty net in the final seconds.

Nathan Soilis and Richard Boulware each chipped in with two assists to aid the Eagles cause.

Zion Micelli in the Wildcats net faced 27 shots in defeat.