Photos: Bob Davies
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Riley Klugerman’s second goal of the game, coming with two and a half minutes remaining in the third period, lifted the Hearst Lumberjacks to a 3-2 victory over the Soo Thunderbirds Monday night in Game 2 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League final at GFL Memorial Gardens.
With the outcome, the Lumberjacks now lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 heading into Game 3 at Claude Larose Recreation Centre in Hearst Thursday evening at 7 p.m.
Plenty of early chances saw both sides trade opportunities, but it remained scoreless through the first half of the opening frame.
Sault Ste. Marie did get on the board late in the period, while on the power play, as they used some slick passing that found Cooper Foster alone to the left of the net where he ripped a shot into the open side at 18:41.
Heading to the middle frame, the Soo misplayed a three-on-one, which allowed the Lumberjacks counter the other way and send Ryan Glazer in alone on a breakaway where he skated in and fired the tying tally under Thunderbirds’ netminder Noah Metivier at 5:12.
A flurry of opportunities midway through the contest saw the Soo buzz around the Hearst net, but their goalkeeper, Matteo Gennaro, was equal to the task.
After some more extended pressure by the home side that was quelled by Gennaro, the Lumberjacks’ Riley Klugerman broke free on a play lifted out of his own zone and darted down the right side, then sped past a defender and snapped a quick shot from the circle over the blocker of Metivier to put the visitors ahead 2-1 with 21 seconds to play in the second stanza.
Moving to the third period, the Thunderbirds tied it at 6:25 while up a skater and saw Kelsey Ouellet dart over the blueline then make a move to the middle where he lifted one into the top right-hand corner.
Knotted at a pair late in regulation, Hearst got the game-winner from Klugerman as his backhand from a sharp angle was deemed to be a good goal by the officials on a play that saw the net dislodged as Metivier attempted to get to the post and stop it.
Getting their goalie out for an attacker, the Soo came close to sending it to overtime as a last-second effort clipped off the cross bar and stayed out just as time expired.
Gennaro’s brilliance in net earned him the game’s first star honour as he picked up the win.
The league champion will advance to represent the NOJHL at the Centennial Cup, presented by Tim Hortons, May 19-29, in Estevan, Sask.
NOJHL championship series schedule
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks lead best-of-seven series 2-0
Game 1: Lumberjacks 6 Thunderbirds 4
Game 2: Lumberjacks 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 3: Thursday, May 5 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Recreation Centre)
Game 4: Friday, May 6 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Recreation Centre)
Game 5*: Sunday, May 8 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Tuesday, May 10 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Recreation Centre)
Game 7*: Thursday, May 12 @ Soo 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel