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A pair of close wins to end the month

The Rayside-Balfour Canadians are hoping that a pair of close victories to end the month of October bode well for the flip of the calendar.

Randy Pascal

After posting a record of 7-2-0-0 in September, the local juniors were far more up and down these past 30 days, finishing with a mark of 6-4-1-0 for the second month of the 2019-2020 campaign.

Reverting back to the tight-checking low scoring affairs that marked the start of the new season, the Canadians edged both the Soo Thunderbirds and the Soo Eagles by the identical score of 3-2 last weekend, with both games on the road, as Rayside prepares for a four-game homestand in the middle of November.

Ironically, it would take a third period comeback on both nights in order for the visitors to complete their weekend sweep. On Friday, it would be defencemen Christopher Clark and Zach Snow who would pull the trigger, five minutes apart, allowing the Canadians to overcome a 2-1 second period deficit.

Veteran Ben Hatanaka had opened the scoring for coach Dan Cuomo and company, but Mackenzie Walkington pulled the T-Birds even and Nick Smith lifted his team into the lead, with both tallies coming on the power play.

Goaltender David Bowen turned aside 26 of the 28 shots that he faced in picking up his first of two weekend wins between the pipes, with the Thunderbirds’ Colin Ahern finishing with 35 saves at the other end of the rink.

Twenty-four hours later, the Canadians were at it again, as Jeff Leishman knotted the contest with the Eagles at 2-2, sniping his fourth goal of the season at 3:58 of the third, with Zach Hauseman netting the winner with just over five minutes remaining in the game.

Rayside once again opened the scoring, with Brady Maltais doing the honours 28 seconds into period two, only to see Dominic Skrelja and Blake Vaca get that one back and then some, giving the homeside a 2-1 lead, with twenty minutes to play.

Bowen was solid, once again, facing 24 shots in the contest, with Ryan Gilmore just slightly busier, making 31 saves for the Eagles. The abbreviated Rayside-Balfour winning streak leaves the team sitting comfortably in second place in the NOJHL West Division with a record of 13-6-1-0 (27 pts), just one point back of the Blind River Beavers (13-4-1-1), though the frontrunners hold one game in hand.

For his part, Bowen was named as one of the Eastlink Three Stars of the Week, backstopping a somewhat depleted Canadians crew to their triumphs away from home. Increasing his season total to nine wins, Bowen now sits second in the NOJHL in that category, all while working behind a relatively young team in Chelmsford this year.

The former Sudbury Wolves’ draft pick became the fourth member of the team distinguished with the weekly award, joining rookies Matt Belanger, Mitchell Martin and Nick DeGrazia.

Rayside will open November on the road, back south of the border for another match-up with the Soo Eagles this Friday night (November 1st), returning home next Thursday to host the Timmins Rock in Chelmsford.