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GALLERY: Lumberjacks take down Crunch in home opener

HEARST – An early third period flurry broke open a close game as the Hearst Lumberjacks took down the Cochrane Crunch 8-3 in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League encounter late Sunday afternoon at Claude Larose Arena.

An opening power play helped the visiting Crunch commence the scoring when Travis Szafron let loose with a right point blast that eluded Hearst starting netminder Andrew Stephan high at 5:46 for his first NOJHL goal.

Hearst pressed the pace after that and were rewarded with the equalizer before the frame was complete when Jaxon Penner pushed the puck forward on a partial two-on-one where he broke free and chipped his chance over the blocker of Cochrane goaltender Julien Lefebvre.

Despite being outshot in the period, the guests regained the lead late as Tyson Moore neatly redirected a Mike Iatridis attempt from the blueline inside the left faceoff circle.

The hometown Lumberjacks countered once more seven minutes into the middle frame as they forced the puck free along the boards, which allowed Quinton Hill to put a back hand on net and resulted in captain Sebastien Doucet banging in the rebound from close range.

Tied at 2-2, Hearst took their first lead at 13:18 when defenceman Thomas Dodds let a shot go from the left point that found its way in short side.

Hill then helped the hosts go up a pair deep into the second after a Cochrane defender lost an edge behind the net, which helped the Lumberjacks scoop up the loose puck, spin out of the corner and wire a shot between Lefebvre’s pad and the post.

Plenty of action early in the third saw Cochrane’s Moore bank one off a skate 53 seconds in, but the Lumberjacks came right back with a trio of tallies to break it open.

Raphael Lajeunesse, on the next shift, Penner again, a minute and a half later, followed by shorthanded break by Olivier Cloutier-Faucher at 3:44 put the game away.

Hill then capped off his day by using a Crunch defender as a screen and whipping one into the top right hand corner.

Stephan finished with 18 stops to record the win while Lefebvre faced 49 attempts in defeat.

Game Photos: Chris Eby