SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Rayside-Balfour Canadians captain Evan Krassey collected a Ryan Mooney pass 55 seconds into overtime and popped in the game-winner from the top of the crease to give their side a dramatic 3-2 triumph over the Soo Eagles Thursday night in Game 3 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division semifinal at Pullar Stadium.
With the outcome, Rayside-Balfour now leads the best-of-seven affair 3-0 and will have a chance to wrap it up Friday at 7:30 p.m. back at Pullar Stadium, with Sault Ste. Marie needing a victory in that one to keep their season going.
Rayside-Balfour also came out and grabbed a 1-0 lead before the contest was six minutes old as Carson McMillan and Matthew Dokis-Dupuis combined to set-up Benjamin Hatanaka for his second tally of the series at 5:41.
Sault Ste. Marie answered a couple minutes later though to level the proceedings at 1-1 with defenceman Brendan Blair putting out in for the home side with assists going to Kobe Keller and Dominic Skrelja.
Blair then had an opportunity to put the Eagles in front early in the middle frame as he was awarded a penalty shot, but he was thwarted by Canadians goaltender David Bowen.
It then stayed tied until late in the second stanza as Jett Leishman put the visitors back in front at 18:13 with McMillan adding another helper on the play.
With their goalie out for an extra attacker the Eagles capitalized with 63 seconds left in the third to force overtime as Skrelja snagged a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble and knocked in the equalizer past a sprawled Bowen from the left of the RBC net.
Heading to OT, it was Rayside-Balfour that pressed the pace early, which resulted in the game-winner.
Off a faceoff win back to Mooney, the Rayside-Balfour defenceman cut across the blueline, then deep into the right side of the Soo zone, where he fired a pass that a falling Krassey got two whacks at before sliding the decider into the open side on Eagles goalkeeper Shane Brancato to give the visitors the win and a 3-0 series lead.
Shots on goal favoured the Canadians by a 34-33 margin with Bowen winning his third straight start while Brancato, despite his solid efforts once again, suffered his third consecutive one-goal setback.
West Division semifinal
No. 2 Rayside-Balfour Canadians vs. No. 3 Soo Eagles
Canadians lead best-of-seven series 3-0
Game 1: Canadians 2 Eagles 1
Game 2: Canadians 1 Eagles 0
Game 3: Canadians 3 Eagles 2 (OT)
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)