CHELMSFORD, Ont. – Rayside-Balfour Canadians netminder David Bowen turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced to backstop his side to a narrow 2-1 decision over the Soo Eagles Saturday in a hotly-contested goaltender’s duel Saturday in Game 1 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at Chelmsford Arena.
All the scoring in this one was provided in the opening 20 minutes.
Rayside-Balfour captain Evan Krassey got his side going early as he began the scoring in the series just 75 seconds into the match-up.
The Canadians then went up by a pair at 13:56 as a Jett Leishman effort would prove to be the eventual game-winner.
Sault Ste. Marie did cut into the deficit late in the first on a buzzer beater from Kobe Keller at 19:59 just before the first frame came to a close.
It was a battle of goalkeepers from there on out with both Bowen and Eagles starter Shane Brancato turning in stellar efforts for their teams to keep respective shooters off the score sheet throughout the remainder of regulation.
Brancato finished with 34 stops in suffering a close setback for the Soo.
This best-of-seven affair resumes Sunday at 6:30 p.m. back in Chelmsford.
West Division semifinal
No. 2 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles
Canadians lead best-of-seven series 1-0
Game 1: Canadians 2 Eagles 1
Game 2: Sunday, March 17 @ Rayside-Balfour 6:30 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 3: Thursday, March 21 @ Soo Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 4: Friday, March 22 @ Soo Eagles 7:30 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 5*: Sunday, March 24 @ Rayside-Balfour 6:30 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 6*: Tuesday, March 26 @ Soo Eagles 7 p.m. (Pullar Stadium)
Game 7*: Wednesday, March 27 @ Rayside-Balfour 7:30 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)