ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. – A Zachary Matyasik power play goal with 2:35 remaining in regulation proved to be the game-winner as the Espanola Express pulled out a 5-3 decision over the Elliot Lake Wildcats in a back and forth Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League match-up Sunday night at Centennial Arena.
The hometown Wildcats got the early edge in this one as they scored twice in the first frame with Jonathan Giancotti, at even strength, and Owen Kruse, while shorthanded, putting Elliot Lake in front by a pair.
Espanola turned the tables in the middle stanza though as they scored three times in the session to take a 3-2 lead after minutes.
After Jonah Devereux put the visitors on the board at 2:13, Robbie Malucci’s second of the season, four and half minutes later, levelled the proceedings.
The Express then took the lead late in the frame on Matais Salem’s fourth.
In the final period, the Wildcats tied it with just under nine minutes left as Eric Vanderhoff and Kruse combined to set-up captain Connor Taylor for his third goal of 2019-20.
Going to the man advantage in the late going, Espanola collected the difference maker as a blast from the right point was deflected with a crowd in front and found its way through the maze past Elliot Lake netminder Parker Simpson that Matyasik saw credited with his sixth tally with assists going to Matais Salem and A.J. Favot.
Elliot Lake picked up a power play opportunity themselves in the final two minutes to try and force overtime, but with Simpson out for an extra attacker, Walker stole the puck in his own zone then darted down the right wing and won the race the other way where his empty netter at 19:39 secured a second-straight victory for the Express.
Walker also finished with two assists for a three-point performance.
Shots on goal on the night were registered as 66-44 in favour of Espanola with Joel Rainville picking up the win while Simpson suffered the setback.
NOJHL action now shifts to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Tuesday and Wednesday for its fourth annual Showcase event, which will be held at Big Bear Arena and will feature all 12 league-member clubs playing two games apiece.
Game Photos courtesy of Northern Exposures Photography