BLIND RIVER, Ont. – A Matthew Murray point blast with just three seconds remaining in regulation was the difference as the Blind River Beavers earned a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Soo Thunderbirds in Game 4 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal Friday at the Blind River Community Centre.
This means this best-of-seven set is now tied 2-2 with Game 5 going Sunday at 7 p.m. at John Rhodes Community Centre while Game 6 is slated for Tuesday, at the same time, but back in Blind River.
Breaking out shorthanded, the visitors opened the scoring 16 and a half minutes into the contest, as Camden Findlay made a perfect pass to a hard-charging Tanner Manye who went in alone on Blind River starter Jackson Hjelle and snapped a shot high into the top right-hand corner to make it 1-0.
The Beavers countered late in the first period during another man advantage as captain Caleb Serre teed one up for Murray who promptly one-timed a shot through a screen past Soo goaltender Colin Ahern with 17 seconds remaining in the frame.
Action in the second stanza saw Sault Ste. Marie regain the lead moments after a point blank save by Ahern as his side broke out and on a wrap around and a goal-mouth scramble, it was ruled by the officials, after some discussion, that the puck had entered the net at 8:17 with Max Techel getting credit for the goal.
The Blind River power play capitalized once more though a couple shifts later to knot the score again as Ryan Peck collected a rebound from in close and lifted the equalizer into the open side.
It stayed 2-2 until the final moments of the contest, when off a faceoff win following an icing call, the Beavers’ Ryan Mulligan worked it over to Murray on the left side who ripped the game-winner past Ahern to tie the series.
Mulligan and Serre assisted on two markers apiece to aid the offensive cause for the hosts.
Shots on goal on the night favoured Blind River 34-31 with Hjelle picking up his second straight win while Ahern suffered the narrow setback.
West Division semifinal
No. 1 Soo Thunderbirds vs. No. 4 Blind River Beavers
Best-of-seven series tied 2-2
Game 1: Thunderbirds 4 Beavers 2
Game 2: Thunderbirds 6 Beavers 3
Game 3: Beavers 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 4: Beavers 3 Thunderbirds 2
Game 5: Sunday, March 24 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game 6: Tuesday, March 26 @ Blind River 7 p.m. (Blind River Community Centre)
Game 7*: Wednesday, March 27 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)
Game Photos courtesy of Crystal Serré