ELLIOT LAKE – Cole Hepler had a hat trick and assisted on another to help lead the red-hot Elliot Lake Wildcats to their sixth-straight victory Friday as they blasted the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 6-2 in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action at Centennial Arena.
Surging Elliot Lake jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the opening period thanks to tallies by Jeff Wilson, on the power play, and an even strength effort by Hepler a half minute apart, which also spelled an early exit for Kirkland Lake goaltender Kenny Fitzgerald.
The Gold Miners replacement in net, Devon Debastos, was promptly greeted by a Nathan Campbell marker at 12:24 to put the Wildcats up by three.
Another by Hepler three minutes later extended the home side’s lead heading into the second period.
Elliot Lake continued to roll in the middle stanza as Hepler fed Spencer McLean at 2:58 before finishing off his three-goal night a couple minutes later with a shorthanded marker.
Kirkland Lake did manage to get on the board at 6:04 of the frame with Ryan Swain connecting for the Miners.
Joel Fortin added another for the visitors with seven minutes remaining in the third to round out the scoring.
Alec MacKenzie chipped in offensively for the Wildcats dishing out a trio of assists.
A.J. Smith made 29 saves to register the victory.
Debastos finished with 21 stops in relief for the Gold Miners and suffered the loss while Fitzgerald allowed two on six shots in his brief stint between the pipes.
With the victory the Wildcats improved to 6-1 while the Gold Miners dropped to 6-2.