Beavers searching for formula for late-game success
A disturbing trend of disappointing finishes seems to be plaguing the Blind River Beavers as they approach the middle of the 2018-19 Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League schedule.
Though they remain near the top of the NOJHL’S western division standings, the Beavers have failed to gain ground on the other contenders in the division in recent weeks. The primary reason for the lack of progress appears to be a penchant for surrendering leads late in games after working hard to gain an early advantage.
The trend continued during a difficult road trip over the past weekend, which saw the Beavers squander early leads against Kirkland Lake and Powassan. The Beavers led early in both games before falling 5-2 to the Gold Miners and 3-2 in overtime to the Voodoos. The Beavers also lost 3-2 to the French River Rapids, where they gave up a short-handed goal in the third period of a game that was tied at 2-2 at the time.
Beginning their road trip in Kirkland Lake on Friday, the Beavers started fast and earned an early 1-0 lead when Sam Harris combined with Caleb Serre and Riley Nadeau for a power-play goal. The lead held up until the middle of the second period, when Gregory Trudeau-paquet scored for the Gold Miners to tie the score at 1-1.
The Beavers had an opportunity move back in front later in the second stanza on a powerplay, but squandered the chance when Alex Ellie scored short-handed to put Kirkland Lake ahead 2-1. The Beavers bounced back quickly, however, when the trio of Serre, Harris and Nadeau clicked again to tie the game at 2-2.
The turning point in the contest came late in the second period, when Sam Ellwood of the Gold Miners beat Blind River goalie Garret Boyonoski on a power-play to put Kirkland Lake ahead 3-2 by the second intermission. The Beavers were unable to overcome the deficit in the third period, and gave up goals by Hunter Foreshew and Vinny Desanctis to lose by a final count of 5-2.
It was a similar script in Powassan for the Beavers, as the Voodoos rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 win in overtime. Once again, the Beavers started strongly, as Ryan Peck scored from Nathan Engel and Ryan Nielsen less than eight minutes into the contest to give Blind River a 1-0 lead.
A power-play goal by Lucas Adams from Dante Cavaliere and Serre made it 2-0 for the Beavers late in the opening frame. Solid goaltending by Boyonoski made the lead hold up until late in the second period, when Eric Allair scored for the Voodoos to cut the margin to 2-1.
With momentum on their side, the Voodoos pushed hard for the tying goal in the third period and were rewarded when Ryan Mills scored midway through the frame. The teams battled on even terms for the remainder of regulation time, and throughout most of the overtime session until Tomas Yachmenev of Powassan took matters into his own hands to decide the game.
With extra room to maneuver in overtime, Yachmenev took the puck in his own zone and flew down the right side of the ice toward the Blind River goal. Still at top speed, Yachmenev whistled a shot past Boyonoski to complete the comeback and win the game for Powassan.
The following afternoon in Noelville, the Beavers fell behind French River 2-0 in the early going on goals by Mac Diver and Hunter Brazier. However, Blind River stormed back to tie the score at 2-2 before the first intermission on goals 62 seconds apart by Ryan Mulligan and Nadeau.
The teams battled on even terms throughout the second period and into the third, when the Beavers gained a powerplay opportunity. The opportunity was lost, however, when Jacob Romano set up Will Frustaglio to beat Beavers goalie Thomson Phinney and give the Rapids a 3-2 lead with just under 14 minutes left to play.
The Beavers threw everything into their comeback attempt, but were unable to beat French River goalie Marshall Frappier to tie the score. The loss leaves the Beavers in third place in the western division standings, just behind the Rayside-balfour Canadians and the Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds.
The Beavers play only once this week, a Saturday evening tilt against their North Shore rivals in Elliot Lake, beginning at 7 at Centennial Arena. The next home game for the Beavers comes on Saturday, Nov. 17, when they host the Thunderbirds.