SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Rayside-Balfour Canadians collected a pair of tallies from defenceman Ethan Lavallee to help lead his side to a 5-3 triumph over the Soo Thunderbirds Saturday night in Game 5 of the West Division Final, which was held at GFL Memorial Gardens.
The Canadians now trail the best-of-seven set 3-2 as they force a Game 6 with the decision, which goes Monday at 7 p.m. at Chelmsford Arena.
Knowing they needed to win to keep their season going, Rayside-Balfour came out quickly and skated to an early two-goal lead before the contest was six minutes old.
Zachary Snow started the outburst by letting one go and scoring from the left point with help from Noah Serre.
The Canadians added another at 5:20 after a Thunderbirds clearing attempt hit a linesman, stayed in the zone, and allowed Giordano Biondi to fire an attempt on net that deflected off of Kyle Liinamaa and eluded Soo starter Colin Ahern.
Going to the power play, the Thunderbirds got on the board a couple minutes later when Steven Bellini let one go from his defensive position and watched the puck clip off Canadians’ netminder David Bowen and flip high in the air and skip into the net.
Answering back with a man advantage marker of their own, Ethan Lavallee connected at 13:21 to put the visitors back up by a pair after one.
The second stanza saw the Soo add another one on the power play as Nick Smith and Lucas Theriault combined to get it across the ice to Noah Boman who wired one past Bowen from the left side.
Still on the power play, it was Rayside-Balfour that countered right away as Liinamaa picked off the puck in his own zone then broke out on a two on one before saucering a pass over to Noah Serre, who put one into the open net for a shorthanded goal.
The Canadians then added another late in the frame after working it free in a scrum behind the goal and saw blueliner Lavallee pinch in unmarked and was left to notch his second of the night from close range at 19:52.
The Thunderbirds got one back with four and a half minutes remaining as Ryan Lawrence’s attempt from the top of the right circle found its way in what turned out to be the evening’s final marker.
Bowen finished with 39 saves to register the win for RBC while Ahern faced 29 shots in defeat.
NOJHL West Division Final
Soo Thunderbirds vs. Rayside-Balfour Canadians
Thunderbirds lead best-of-seven series 3-2
Game 1: Soo 4 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 2: Rayside-Balfour 4 Soo 3 (OT)
Game 3: Soo 6 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 4: Soo 3 Rayside-Balfour 1
Game 5: Rayside-Balfour 5 Soo 3
Game 6: Monday, April 8 @ Rayside-Balfour 7 p.m. (Chelmsford Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 10 @ Sault Ste. Marie 7 p.m. (John Rhodes Community Centre)