Photos: Justin Cairns
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – A pair of third period tallies by Seth Ferguson, including the game-winner with 2:27 remaining in regulation, helped the Soo Eagles skate to a 5-4 triumph over the Hearst Lumberjacks Saturday in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action at Pullar Stadium.
Some quality goaltending by the Eagles’ Gabe Rosek and the Lumberjacks’ Matteo Gennaro kept the contest without a goal after a well-played opening period of play.
Heading to the second stanza, Sault Ste. Marie had a solid opportunity to take the lead early in the session only to see Ferguson foiled by the pad of Gennaro on a partial break.
The Eagles did however open the scoring near the eight-minute mark of the frame after forcing a turnover in Hearst territory that allowed Seve Litz to make a nice back pass from behind the net that eventually saw Brian Fiddes snap one in from close range.
Battling back with the equalizer midway through the proceedings, the Lumberjacks’ Riley Klugerman was sent in alone on a breakaway and made no mistake by letting a low wrister go over the blocker of Rosek to knot the affair at 1-1.
Retaking the lead in the latter stages of the second, the Soo went back on top after Trevor Davis picked off a clearing attempt, which allowed the defenceman to dart into the slot and whip a shot off the crossbar and in.
However, the Lumberjacks took advantage of a giveaway in the final minute that resulted in Robbie Rutledge burying his NOJHL-leading 38th goal of the season with a sharp snap shot from the left of Rosek.
Striking quickly in the third, the visitors took the lead 15 seconds in as Mathieu Comeau stuffed in a loose puck off a Rutledge back hand right off a draw in the Eagles end.
Countering seven minutes later, the Soo power play went to work with Ferguson putting a shot through a couple of bodies battling in front of Gennaro with a attempt from the right circle.
The Eagles then struck shorthanded a few shifts later when Chase Tallaire connected off a scrummed face off with a quick shot to the left of Gennaro.
Back and forth they went and saw Rutledge reach around and pick up his second of the night and 39th overall, which came with the guests still with a man advantage.
Capping off the end-to-end match-up, an open Ferguson was set-up on a Fiddes feed and buried the difference maker to secure the home ice victory.
With the win, each club finishes in second place in their respective divisions with the Soo wrapping the regular season at 33-11-2-2 while Hearst went 35-11-2-0.
They’ll now each gear up for divisional semifinal play with the Eagles taking on the Greater Sudbury Cubs while the Lumberjacks will go up against the Powassan Voodoos in a pair of best-of-seven affairs, that will get underway next week.