Liinamaa the OT hero as Canadians even series with Thunderbirds

CHELMSFORD, Ont. – Kyle Liinamaa’s second goal of the game, coming 10:38 into the first overtime, was the game-winner as the Rayside-Balfour Canadians rallied to defeat the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 Saturday night in Game 2 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s West Division Final at Chelmsford Arena.

The result now sees the best-of-seven affair knotted at a win apiece heading into Game 3 Wednesday at John Rhodes Community Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., at 7:30 p.m.

After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Soo got the jump on the Canadians 5:11 into the middle frame as Tanner Mayne redirected a right point shot from Thunderbirds’ defenceman Steven Bellini.

Going to the power play later in the period, the visitors went up by a pair with Noah Solinger deflecting a Bradon Caruso blast past Rayside-Balfour goalkeeper Brayden Lachance.

The Canadians finally solved Soo goalkeeper Eric Schuch after over 105 minutes of game action when defenceman Ryan O’Bansawin whipped one home from the top of the left face-off circle.

They then added another at 14:50 to force extra time as Liinamaa jammed one past Schuch following a goal-mouth scramble.

Moving on to OT, Liinamaa won it as he picked up the puck just inside the Thunderbirds blueline and proceeded to hammer the winner through Schuch with a rocket from the right side to end it.

Lachance finished with 42 saves to record the victory for Rayside-Balfour while Schuch faced 41 attempts in the setback for the Soo.

NOJHL Playoffs

Series H
West Division Final
No. 1 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 2 Soo Thunderbirds
Best-of-seven series tied 1-1
Game 1: Soo 2 Rayside-Balfour 0
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 3 Soo 2 (OT)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 4 @ Sault St. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 4: Thursday, April 5 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 5: Sunday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 4 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 9 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7:30 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game7*: Wednesday, April 11 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
*- if necessary

Photos courtesy of Rob and Caleigh Fera: