COCHRANE, Ont. – A Darian Harris goal with 8:42 remaining proved to be the game-winner as the Cochrane Crunch went on to defeat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 3-1 early Sunday morning in the final round robin game of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Polar Bear Classic preseason tournament at the Tim Horton Event Centre.
The contest had a lengthy delay and a late start following problems with the ice resurfacer in Cochrane, but when the puck dropped around 11 p.m. EST, the two sides skated to a scoreless opening period.
Action in the second stanza saw the two teams trade opportunities, but it was the Crunch who struck first late in the frame as Bailey Shaver one-timed a cross-ice feed from Kyle Herbster with 4.3 seconds to go past Kirkland Lake starter Victor-Olivier Courchesne.
The Gold Miners came back to tie it just past the five-minute mark of the third as Stavros Soilis buried the equalizer as his effort eluded Crunch starter Leighton Williams
Harris put the home side back on top at 11:18 wiring a shot from the right face-off circle that beat Courchesne.
Kirkland Lake pulled their goaltender in the final minute in favour of an extra attacker, but Cochrane’s Konnar Dechaine scooped up a loose puck just inside the blue line and slid the puck into the empty net after a Gold Miners defender lost an edge and fell with 13.6 seconds remaining to round out the scoring.
Shots on goal were 35-22 in favour of the Crunch.
With the result Cochrane finishes in second spot in the overall standings by virtue of the Polar Bear Classic tournament tie-breaking formula and will now meet the No. 3 seeded Iroquois Falls Eskis in semifinal action at noon Sunday.
The other semifinal will feature the No. 1 Kingston Voyageurs (OJHL) taking on the No. 4 ranked club; the Espanola Express at 10 a.m.
Kirkland Lake meanwhile is eliminated from further competition.
Sunday’s championship game will feature the semifinal winners squaring off at 7 p.m. back in Cochrane.
Polar Bear Classic Schedule/Results
@ Tim Horton Event Centre – Cochrane, Ont.
Thursday, Sept. 1
Iroquois Falls 5 Espanola 4
Kingston (OJHL) 3 Cochrane 2
Friday, Sept. 2
Cochrane 5 Iroquois Falls 4
Kingston (OJHL) 4 Kirkland Lake 2
Iroquois Falls 3 Kirkland Lake 2
Espanola 6 Cochrane 5
Saturday, Sept. 3
Kingston (OJHL) 4 Iroquois Falls 1
Espanola 4 Kirkland Lake 3
Kingston (OJHL) 6 vs. Espanola 3
Cochrane 3 Kirkland Lake 1
Sunday, Sept. 4
Semifinal A: No. 4 Espanola vs. No. 1 Kingston (OJHL) 10 a.m.
Semifinal B: No. 3 Iroquois Falls vs. No. 2 Cochrane 12 p.m.
Final: Semifinal A winner vs. Semifinal B winner 7 p.m