SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – David Gobeil’s marker in the eighth round of the shootout was the difference as the Hearst Lumberjacks withstood a third period comeback by the Soo Thunderbirds and pulled out a 5-4 road victory in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action Saturday at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Entering the contest pacing all NOJHL rookies in goals scored, Jacob Kovacs added to that mark as he notched No. 17 on the campaign just past the 14-minute mark of the first period to give Sault Ste. Marie the lead.
Hearst countered however before the frame was complete thanks to Jake Desando’s 10th late into a two-man advantage.
Then, still up a skater, the Lumberjacks took a 2-1 cushion into the intermission when Max Griffioen collected his 16th of the season at 18:23.
Heading to the middle stanza, the visitors clicked early compliments of Griffioen who tacked on his second of the night a minute and a half in.
Hearst kept coming and went up 4-1 as they added a third power play marker, which was supplied by Nick Bruno who picked up his first NOJHL goal in just his second game.
Carrying that cushion into the third, it was the Thunderbirds who cut into the deficit with eight and a half minutes remaining when Tyler Dunbar converted during a man advantage opportunity.
Continuing to press, the Soo got another at 16:38 when Nick Smith struck shorthanded to bring the hosts even closer.
Then with starter Dakota Meyer on the bench for an extra attacker, the Thunderbirds got the equalizer as Dunbar banged in the tying tally with 40 seconds to go after Kovacs rang one off the post.
After a scoreless OT, extra shots were needed to determine a winner.
There, Smith and Nolan Ford connected for the Soo while Bruno, Matthew MacDougall and Golbeil, who deked right and went top shelf, replied for the Lumberjacks to get the win.
Liam Oxner saved a penalty shot as well in the triumph, finished with 25 stops in regulation and OT and six of eight in the shootout to record the victory.
Meyer’s 34 stops helped the Thunderbirds pick up one point in the setback.
Game Photos courtesy of Bob Davies