CHELMSFORD, Ont. – A Matthew Belanger marker with 3:20 remaining in regulation was the difference as the Rayside-Balfour Canadians collected their fourth Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League victory in a row as they defeated the Soo Thunderbirds 3-2 in a Sunday evening get together at Chelmsford Arena.
First period play saw Rayside-Balfour notch the lone tally of the session thanks to Brady Maltais at 9:19.
In the middle frame, Sault Ste. Marie pick up the only goal there as Nick Smith buried his 17th of season at 17:45 to level the proceedings at 1-1 through 40 minutes of play.
Answering that early in the third was the Canadians’ Giordano Biondi as he put the hosts back in front.
Countering once more, the Thunderbirds came back to tie it six and a half minutes into the period compliments of Camden Findlay.
It stayed level into the latter stages of the contest, when during a delayed penalty, Belanger spun and fired a quick shot from the end boards on the left side that appeared to catch Soo starter Ethan Racz off guard as the puck flew into the back of the net to give Rayside-Balfour their third and final lead of the night.
Canadians goalkeeper Cameron Lamour finished with 22 stops to record the win while Racz, who was making his NOJHL debut, faced 34 shots in defeat.
The triumph sees Rayside-Balfour improve to 21-8-2-0 and move into a first tie in the league’s West Division with the idle Blind River Beavers.
The Soo meanwhile saw their record dip to 15-12-1-3 on the year.