Photos: Helene Rancourt
BLIND RIVER, Ont. – A Jacob Kovacs marker nearly six minutes into the second period held up as the difference maker as the Blind River Beavers pulled out a narrow, hard-fought 2-1 decision versus the Elliot Lake Red Wings Wednesday in the third and deciding game of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League playoff series at the Blind River Community Centre.
With the outcome, Blind River takes the best-of-three series two games to one and will now move on to meet the league-leading Soo Thunderbirds in a West Division semifinal match-up.
Building on the momentum of their thrilling double overtime victory in Game 2 Tuesday, Elliot Lake needed just 18 seconds to open the scoring in this one as Brodie Kearns went in on a breakaway that was stopped, but Josh Tomasi skated in behind him and lifted in the rebound past Blind River starter Patrick Boivin.
Answering back just past the 14-minute mark of the first frame, Kyle Caron collected his third of the series for the Beavers when a solid forecheck by teammate Jesse Dupuis forced a turnover, which allowed him to move in and wire one over the blocker of Red Wings’ starter Cameron Smith.
Remaining tied 1-1 into the second stanza and moments after a point-blank pad-save by Boivin, Blind River countered in transition and took the lead at 5:51 thanks to Kovacs, who was set-up by Caleb Minns and Hayden Webster, before darting in a tucking one between the legs of Smith.
It remained a goaltender’s duel the rest of the way with Boivin and Smith both shutting the door.
Boivin picked up the win to help his side move on, while Smith was solid as well in the season-ending defeat for Elliot Lake.
NOJHL West quarter-final
Blind River Beavers vs. Elliot Lake Red Wings
Beavers win best-of-three series 2-1
Game 1: Blind River 6 Elliot Lake 1
Game 2: Elliot Lake 4 Blind River 3 (2OT)
Game 3: Blind River 2 Elliot Lake 1