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Canadians outlast Eagles in shootout

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. A Mitchell Martin marker on the first attempt in the shootout proved to be the only one in extra shots as the Rayside-Balfour Canadians outlasted the Soo Eagles 7-6 in a high-scoring Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division meeting at Pullar Stadium.

Both clubs came out clicking as they combined for six goals in a high-flying first frame.

Rayside-Balfour took three leads on tallies from Matthew Belanger (power play), Martin and Zachary Snow (shorthanded), only to see the Eagles answer on each occasion compliments of George Orfanos, Tyler Kiley-Ram, with his first in the league, and Dominic Skrelja, via the man advantage.

The first half of the middle stanza saw the Canadians continue to connect as Belanger scored once more, while Brady Maltais added his team’s second man-down effort of the night and Graeme Siren opening NOJHL goal put the visitors up 6-3 with over a half a game to play.

Up a skater after that, Caleb Wood’s eighth cut into the deficit for Sault Ste. Marie at 12:24 to make it a 6-4 game after two.

Leading the league with comeback wins while trailing after 40 minutes with three, the Eagles started their latest response three and a half minutes into the session as Joel Brandinger collected his first NOJHL marker to pull the hosts to within one.

The Soo power play clicked again a few shifts later as Brandinger scored once again to knot the affair at 6-6 and force overtime.

Chances were had in OT, but neither side would convert, so it went to the shootout to decide a winner.

There, Martin collected the difference maker as he skated in slowly, before deking to his left and snapping a shot past goaltender Ryan Gilmore.

Nicholas Heinzle in the Rayside-Balfour net stood firm on his end thwarting the Soo on all three chances they had to help secure the road win for the Canadians. He made 35 stops through OT as well.

Shane Brancato started for the Eagles and allowed five against on 22 attempts while Gilmore suffered the setback in relief, saving 22 of 23 in regulation and two of three in the shootout.