Rutledge rallies Hearst past French River

Media Library Photo: Dal Photography

FRENCH RIVER – Providing a four-goal performance, Hearst Lumberjacks forward Robbie Rutledge paved the way for an 8-6 come from behind victory over the French River Rapids Saturday in a high-scoring Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League affair at Noelville Arena.

Taking over the NOJHL-lead in goals, French River’s Dominik Godin collected his 21st tally of the campaign just over five minutes into the contest as he scooped up the rebound off a Spencer Hughes attempt and lifted a backhand over a sprawled Liam Oxner in the Hearst net.

Coming right back, the Lumberjacks tied it while on the power play with Rutledge connecting while spinning and finishing off a goal-mouth scramble.

Up a skater themselves midway through the first period, the Rapids went back on top thanks to Chase Thompson, who banged in a loose puck following a Oxner pad save off an Adam Boucher shot from the slot.

Getting that back before the intermission, Hearst’s Cody Walker converted at 13:47 while cutting out from behind the net and jamming one in just as a penalty for the home side was set to expire.

Coming out fast to commence the middle frame, French River struck twice in the opening three minutes to go up by a pair.

Captain Cooper Bowman made it 3-2 Rapids as he took a pass up from Levi Siau then ripped one short side off the post and in on Oxner to chase him in favour of back-up Matteo Gennaro.

The assist for Siau extended a current league-high point streak to 14 games in succession.

Despite the goaltending change, Thompson greeted Gennaro by beating him at 2:58 as he jammed away in front before eventually converting from in close.

Entering the match-up second in the NOJHL in power play proficiency, the Lumberjack’s Rutledge potted his second man advantage marker of the night at 7:11 only to see Bowman counter with an even strength effort, two and a half minutes later, to put the hosts back up by a pair.

A third of the night for Rutledge brought Hearst back to within one later in the stanza as he put in a rebound off a Mathieu Comeau chance.

The goals kept coming and French River picked up their sixth of the night before the second intermission with Chase Lefebvre tucking in a loose puck in front off a Siau shot from the point.

Comeau then provided another extra-man effort for the guests late in the period as he ripped one into the top shelf from the slot.

The Rutledge show continued in the third as he glided back to between the hashmarks where he was set-up and ripped in his fourth on the evening.

It was a third straight goal for the Lumberjacks midway through the frame with Raphael Lajeunesse neatly redirecting a Liam McDonald wrister from the right point.

Brayden Palfi then capped off the comeback in the late going as he won a race down the left side and zipped one into an empty net to wrap things up offensively.

Picking up the win in relief, Gennaro stopped 22 of the 25 chances he faced while Oxner allowed three against on 15 attempts.

Meanwhile, the Rapids Cole Sheffield suffered the loss in giving up seven against on the 44 shots he faced.