ESPANOLA, Ont. – Liam Oxner of the Hearst Lumberjacks turned in a solid performance Friday, stopping every shot fired his way to collect his second shutout of the season, a 4-0 triumph over the Blind River Beavers in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League neutral site match-up held at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex.
Striking twice in a 45-second span in the opening frame helped Hearst take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Ryan Glazer got the initial tally for the Lumberjacks at 13:10 as he collected his 15th goal of the season by finishing off a mini two-on-one with Robbie Rutledge by taking the play left then wide-right before tucking the puck past the outstretched pad of Beavers’ netminder Patrick Boivin.
Coming right back on the next shift, Hearst went up by two thanks to Owen Porter, who whipped one upstairs from a sharp angle to the left of Boivin after taking a cross-ice feed from defenceman Jaden Raad.
Pressing hard to get on the board midway through the proceedings, Blind River had a number of quality chances during a goal-mouth scramble, but they could not beat a sprawling Oxner in the Lumberjacks net.
Carrying their two-goal lead into the final frame, Hearst’s league-leading power play went to work four and a half minutes in when Rutledge stuffed in his NOJHL-best 37th marker of campaign while parked to the right of the Beavers’ net.
Helping cap-off the victory, the Lumberjacks’ Maxandre Pelletier knocked down an Alex Hunt wrister from the blueline, near the side boards, that changed direction and bounced into the open corner with under eight minutes to go to wrap things up offensively.
With the result, Hearst now has a chance to win the NOJHL’s East Division title and surpass the Timmins Rock, in their regular season finale Saturday, as they pay a visit to the Soo Eagles.
Meanwhile, the defeat means the Beavers finish fourth in the NOJHL West and will host the Elliot Lake Red Wings in Game 1 of their best-of-three play-in series Monday at 7 p.m., at the Blind River Community Centre.