HEARST, Ont. – A Christian James-McDonald goal five and a half minutes into the third period proved to be the difference as the Hearst Lumberjacks went on to defeat the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 Wednesday evening in Game 3 of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series in front of 837 fans at Claude Larose Arena.
With the outcome, the Lumberjacks now lead the best-of-seven affair 2-1 heading into Game 4 Thursday night at 7 p.m. back at Claude Larose.
The hometown faithful had plenty to cheer about early as Hearst’s Mathew Eardley blasted one from the right point five minutes into the contest past Thunderbirds starter Colin Ahern.
Sault Ste. Marie countered though at 12:13 to level the proceedings during a man advantage opportunity with Noah Boman neatly redirecting a Lucas Theriault feed with the duo extending point streaks to five games in succession.
The Lumberjacks regained the lead 14 seconds into the middle stanza as Bradley Golant knocked in the rebound of a Max Johnson attempt from close range beating Ahern, who was injured on the play, and had to give way to backup William Anderson the rest of the way.
Special teams helped the Soo strike once more as Boman added another on the power play at 8:13 of the second to level the proceedings.
Hearst took their third lead of the evening in the final frame as James-McDonald collected the puck off a Johnson shot then came in and lifted one over Anderson at 5:26.
Lumberjacks netminder Nicholas Tallarico shut the door the rest of the way finishing with 31 stops to record his NOJHL-leading 10th playoff victory of the campaign.
Anderson suffered the loss in relief turning aside 17 of 18 while Ahearn handed 10 of 12 before being injured.
Johnson and Theriault both dished two assists apiece to aid their respective sides.
The NOJHL winner will advance to the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Jr. A Championship, April 30 – May 4, in Cochrane.
All contests in the NOJHL final will be streamed live online at HockeyTV.com.
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks lead best-of-seven series 2-1
Game 1: Soo 3 Hearst 2
Game 2: Hearst 7 Soo 3
Game 3: Hearst 3 Soo 2
Game 4: Thursday, April 18 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 5: Saturday, April 20 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6*: Monday, April 22 @ Hearst 7 p.m. (Claude Larose Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Highway Eleven &Co.