HEARST, Ont. – A fortuitous bounce left Jacob Comeau with a tap in into an open net 15:56 into the second stanza and proved to be the difference maker as the Hearst Lumberjacks rallied for a 5-3 victory over the Soo Thunderbirds Thursday night in Game 4 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series with 972 fans on hand at Claude Larose Arena.
In picking up the come from behind victory, the Lumberjacks extended their series lead to 3-1 and will have an opportunity to capture their first NOJHL title Saturday as they head out on the road for Game 5 at 7 p.m. at John Rhodes Community centre.
Sault Ste. Marie did get out to a solid start by skating to a 2-0 lead after one period of play on an even strength effort from affiliate Josh King from in close as he chipped one over Hearst starter Nicholas Tallarico as well as a power play marker from the point courtesy of Steven Bellini that found its way through the legs of the Lumberjacks netminder.
Up a skater themselves, the home side got on the board six minutes into the middle session as Max Griffioen converted to make it 2-1.
Going on a two-on-one, the Thunderbirds went back up by a pair at 9:17 as Noah Boman passed one over to Matthew Bazarin, who buried the opportunity.
Countering, Hearst got that back just over a minute later as Cameron Clark fired one from the left side that beat Soo stopper William Anderson.
Griffioen then tied it with his second of the night and seventh of the playoffs as he finished off a Clark feed.
Picking up a lengthy power play, Hearst took the lead after Anderson tried to clear the puck up to a Soo defender, but it bounced off the defencema right to a surprised Comeau, who was left with an open net and an easy goal.
Heading to the third, the visitors pulled Anerson late for an extra attacker, but Troy Daniels rushed up the ice and slid in an attempt for an empty netter to secure the decision.
Tallarico finished with 20 saves to pick up the win while Anderson faced 31 shots in defeat.
The NOJHL winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, April 30 – May 4, in Cochrane.
All contests in the NOJHL final will be streamed live online at HockeyTV.com.
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks lead best-of-seven series 3-1
Game 1: Soo 3 Hearst 2
Game 2: Hearst 7 Soo 3
Game 3: Hearst 3 Soo 2
Game 4: Hearst 5 Soo 3
Game 5: Saturday, April 20 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, April 22 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)