COCHRANE, Ont. – The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners rallied from an early two-goal deficit and scored twice in the third period to defeat the Cochrane Crunch 4-3 Saturday in Game 5 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League East Division final series in front of a standing room only crowd at the Tim Horton Event Centre.
With the result, Kirkland Lake wins the best-of-seven series 4-1 and will now meet the Soo Thunderbirds for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy in the league championship series starting next week.
An early man advantage opportunity allowed Cochrane to open the scoring just past the four-minute mark as Dustin Cordeiro drove hard down the left side and saucered a pass in front to a hard-charging Hunter Atchison who knocked the puck into the open side past Kirkland Lake starter Joe Marcouiller.
The Crunch, who carried the play in the first half of the period, were rewarded with another goal as John Stevenson corralled the rebound off a Jeremy McNeil attempt and spun in front while sliding his effort into the left side of the net.
Kirkland Lake got back into it 5:44 into the middle session as Gold Miners affiliate Karter Renouf scooped up the rebound of a Brett Ouderkirk shot and fired one from the slot that eluded Cochrane goaltender Brett Young.
Cochrane got that back while shorthanded as Stevenson chipped the puck past a Kirkland Lake defender and raced down the length of the ice on a breakaway and proceeded to neatly tuck his chance through the legs of Marcouiller at 14:22.
However the visitors were still on the man advantage and capitalized 34 seconds later as Renouf was parked alone in front and snapped in his chance after an Ouderkirk effort to make it 3-2 through 40 minutes.
With the two sides starting the third at four skaters aside, it was the Gold Miners who produced the tying goal just 23 seconds in as Blake Anderson wristed the equalizer from the high slot that beat Young.
Building on momentum they gained on the equalizer, Kirkland Lake took their first lead with 14:14 remaining as Brayden Stortz tapped in a loose puck from in close in what turned out to be the game-winner.
The Crunch pulled Young with over a minute to go in regulation in an effort to force overtime, but the Gold Miners stood tall defensively and ended the series.
Ouderkirk, Logan Fredericks and Brandon Wolfe chipped in with two assists apiece for the winners.
Marcouiller finished with 43 stops to post the victory for Kirkland Lake while Young suffered the loss facing 36 shots in defeat for the Crunch.
The 3 Stars last night were;
#3 Brayden Stortz of the Miners who scored once, was the heart & soul last night, and won 4 huge dzone draws on the last Crunch PP with under 3 minutes to play.
#2 Karter Renouf, our AP from the Timmins Majors scored twice last night, for the 2nd time, on the road in the series. Had his legs moving all night and forced Coach Marc to alter his lines to get the youngster more icetime!
#1 John Stevenson of the Crunch, who scored twice and was by far the most dangerous of the Crunch forwards all night.
The schedule for the Copeland Cup – McNamara Trophy NOJHL Championship final will be announced once it is finalized.
As the top seed and regular season champions, the Thunderbirds hold home ice advantage to begin the best-of-seven series.
Also, as Kirkland Lake is hosting the 2016 Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A championship, the T-Birds automatically advance to the event as the other NOJHL representative regardless of the outcome of the league final.
All NOJHL playoff games are available online at FASTHockey.com.
East Division final
No. 1 Cochrane Crunch vs. No. 3 Kirkland Lake Gold Miners
Kirkland Lake wins best-of-seven series 4-1
Game 1: Kirkland Lake 5 Cochrane 2
Game 2: Cochrane 6 Kirkland Lake 5 (OT)
Game 3: Kirkland Lake 5 Cochrane 3
Game 4: Kirkland Lake 2 Cochrane 1
Game 5: Kirkland Lake 4 Cochrane 3