SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Hearst Lumberjacks stormed back from an early two-goal deficit and erupted for four tallies in the second period as they rallied for an eventual 6-3 victory to win their first-ever Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League championship in defeating the Soo Thunderbirds Wednesday night in Game 7 of the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy Final at John Rhodes Community Centre.
Hearst will move on to meet the Oakville Blades (OJHL), Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) and the host Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup, April 30 through May 4 with a berth to the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-18, in Brooks, Alta., on the line.
Wednesday’s contest was scoreless until nearly 13 minutes into the first frame when Sault Ste. Marie’s Lucas Theriault swiped the puck off a Hearst defender at the blueline then skated in alone and buried his NOJHL-leading 12th goal of the playoffs by beating Lumberjacks starter Nicholas Tallarico.
Coming right back, the Thunderbirds added another at 14:11 as defenceman Max Techel put a pass up to Nick Smith who drove down the right wing and snapped a shot that beat the Hearst netminder.
The visitors did cut into the deficit however before the period was complete when Max Griffioen put a cross-ice feed on the tape of Jake Desando who went upstairs on Soo goalkeeper William Anderson.
The second session was mostly all Lumberjacks early as they struck four times in a six-minute span to seize control of the game.
Alec Johnson started the offensive outburst 40 seconds in while Dawson Waddell, Max Johnson and George Young added markers later in rapid succession to make it 5-2 with half a game to play.
A late power play helped the home side pull back to within two as they worked it around before Theriault slammed in his second of the night and 13th overall at 18:08.
Moving to the third, Hearst held the Soo at bay and eventually sealed the triumph as Bradley Golant put one into an empty net with 92 seconds remaining to wrap up the season.
The Lumberjacks also held the edge in shots by a 31-27 margin with Tallarico picking up the win and Anderson the loss.
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Hearst Lumberjacks
Lumberjacks win best-of-seven series 4-3
Game 1: Soo 3 Hearst 2
Game 2: Hearst 7 Soo 3
Game 3: Hearst 3 Soo 2
Game 4: Hearst 5 Soo 3
Game 5: Soo 4 Hearst 2
Game 6: Soo 2 Hearst 0
Game 7: Hearst 6 Soo 3