FRENCH RIVER – A Jackson Doyle rising backhand in the fourth round of the shootout was the difference at the French River Rapids defeated the Espanola Paper Kings 5-4 in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League exhibition play Thursday evening at Noelville Arena.
French River started fast in the match-up thanks to a nice effort from forward Chase Thompson, who made some nice moves entering the Espanola zone before finishing off a quick release from close range.
Getting that back before the first intermission, the Paper Kings drew level at 11:13 when a solid effort from Christian Shields kept the puck in and fed Garreth Sturges, who snapped one in from right side.
Moving to the middle frame, the Rapids regained the lead at 5:57 as they forced a turnover in the neutral zone and came in on a partial two-man break and saw Matthew Campanella send a perfect cross-crease feed over to Josh Russell, who buried one over a sprawling Creedon Dyck in the Espanola net.
Tying it once more, the visitors connected off a face off as defenceman Aidan Pethick put one towards the goal from the left point, then saw Bobby Pokupec, corral the loose puck, take it wide right and slide it into the open corner.
Adding another, Spencer Horgan raced down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway and made a couple of nifty dekes, before lifting a slick backhand under the cross bar.
Back and forth they went with Doyle picking one off before firing one through the goalkeeper’s legs and in.
In the third, Espanola went in front moments after a man advantage had expired with Pethick jamming one in, but the Rapids came back to force extra time when Owen Ethier scored from the left circle with 3:21 left in regulation.
Some quality goaltending at both ends failed to provide a result in the five-minute, thus off it went to extra shots.
In the shootout, Doyle won it and he moved to his right and raised the decider into the upper portion of the net to end it.
Caleb Papineau got the win in net for the Rapids while Dyck suffered the shootout setback.