BLIND RIVER, Ont. – An Andrew Gibson tally with just seconds remaining in overtime lifted the Soo Thunderbirds to a dramatic 5-4 victory over the Blind River Beavers Saturday in a hotly-contested Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division match-up at the Blind River Community Centre.
A free-wheeling first frame saw each club score three times as they were clicking offensively early.
Sault Ste. Marie’s Michael Beltrano began the proceedings with his first NOJHL goal, which came at 2:38, as he was the beneficiary of a right point attempt that pinballed in front of Blind River goaltender Gavin Disano before bouncing off him and into the net.
The Thunderbirds kept coming and notched another on the next shift as the puck jumped off the end boards in front where a waiting Kenny Belanger Jr., was there to stuff it in from the left of the crease.
Regrouping, the Beavers cut into the deficit at 4:08 thanks to Nolan Connolly’s initial league effort that came from the left side, just inside the blueline, as his shot sailed through a screen in front and beat Soo starter Noah Metivier.
It was more from the visitors before the midway mark of the period though as Creo Solomon picked up his fifth of the campaign when he whistled one in from the high slot.
Battling back in the latter stages of the frame, Blind River clicked twice to send the sides to the intermission knotted at 3-3.
Jesse Dupuis was the marksman on both goals as he took a feed from behind the net and quickly snapped in a shot from a few feet away for his opening tally.
He then tipped in the next one in while parked in front off a face-off win at 19:27.
The Beavers then took the lead early in the second off a giveaway that allowed Hayden Webster to convert from right on top of Metivier as he lifted his chance into the top right hand corner.
They had a chance to extend their edge midway through the session but Metivier stymied Alexander Tingay on a penalty shot.
Answering back in the third, the Soo drew level on a two-on-one as Kelsey Ouellet send a cross-ice pass over to Michael Chaffay who whipped one in from the right side for his seventh goal of the season and help force extra time.
Heading into the latter stages of OT, Gibson won it as he slid in between the hash marks and wired the game-winner top shelf to give the Soo the win.
Metiver made 26 saves to record the triumph while Disano was busy facing 61 attempts against in helping his side collecting a point in defeat.