Beavers start NOJHL season with pair of wins over Espanola
if the first two games are any indication, the blind river beavers will be in the thick of the battle for the northern ontario Junior hockey league championship in the 2018-19 season.
The beavers showed both determination and talent as they racked up a pair of victories over the espanola express to open the nojhl season last weekend. on Friday in espanola, the beavers showed plenty of heart as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to post a 3-2 victory, and then showed their speed and skill the following evening as they rolled to a lopsided 8-1 triumph over the express in their home opener at the blind river Community Centre.
The results from the weekend put the beavers atop the nojhl’s western division standings heading into a busy weekend of games against their north shore rivals. The beavers begin a home-and-home series against the elliot lake Wildcats on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Centennial arena, with the return match set for saturday evening at 7 p.m. in blind river. on sunday afternoon, the beavers travel to espanola for another encounter with the express.
in their first game of the new season, the beavers had to fight off a pesky express squad and overcome the great goaltending of espanola netminder Joel rainville. despite dominating play and out-shooting their opponents 16-6 in the first period, the beavers found themselves down 1-0 on a goal by adam morgan of the express.
espanola capitalized on a power-play early in the second period to take a 2-0 lead, as Chase lammi beat beavers goalie maxim sidelnik. however, the deficit seemed to ignite a sense of urgency in the beavers, and they responded to tie the score at 2-2 by the second intermission.
ian Zaleski got the comeback started for the beavers as he netted the first goal of the season for the team from nick soumbasis and sam harris midway through the second period. The beavers tied the score minutes later, as brendan young combined with Caleb serre and Justin mauro to beat rainville.
The beavers carried the momentum into the third period and continued to pepper rainville with shots. Finally, with 8:25 remaining in regulation time, Zaleski combined with serre and dante Cavaliere for his second goal of the contest to give the beavers their first lead of the night.
solid team defence and the steady goalkeeping of sidelnik made the lead stand up as the express pressed hard for the tying goal in the final minutes of the game. sidelnik ended the game with 23 saves, as the beavers out-shot the express 49-25 over the course of the evening.
The return match of the home-and-home series with the express turned out to be no contest, as the beavers put on a show for their hockey-starved home fans and cruised to an 8-1 victory. after a cautious start to the game, the beavers exploded for three goals in less than six minutes midway through the opening period and never looked back.
Tyler nott got the beavers started with his first goal of the season after eight minutes of play, and less than a minute later, ethan Graham made it 2-0 for blind river. a goal minutes later by Justin mauro gave the beavers a 3-0 cushion by the first intermission.
The second period featured more of the same from the beavers, as they tacked on goals by mauro, young, harris and Jack mcleod to assume a commanding 7-0 advantage. When adam Cavaliere scored early in the third period to make it 8-0, the only question remaining was whether beaver goaltender Garret boyonoski could register the shutout.
alas, the shutout bid was foiled with less than three minutes remaining as dylan labelle scored to make the final score 8-1 for the beavers. boyonoski stopped 27 of 28 shots by the express, while the beavers bombarded the express netminders with 50 shots.
after two games, there are plenty of blind river players among the nojhl’s scoring leaders. brendan young is tied for the league lead with six points, while mauro, mcleod, harris and serre are tied for fourth with three points each.