TORONTO – Spencer MacLean (Elliot Lake Wildcats) scored the lone goal in the shootout while Mario Culina (Soo Thunderbirds) stood tall between the pipes as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League edged the Central Canada Hockey League’s Robinson Division Selects 3-2 in quarter-final play Saturday of the Central Canada Cup Challenge at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
They will now meet the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Oates all-stars at noon Sunday with the winner advancing to the final at 6 p.m. back in Toronto.
OJHL Oates edged the NOJHL 4-3 in a shootout in round robin play earlier Saturday and OJHL Coffey 5-2 in their quarter-final affair.
It took the CCHL six and a half minutes to open the scoring as Jason Tackett (Kemptville 73s) snapped one past Culina from the slot.
Battling back the NOJHL drew even midway through the frame as Khadyn Butterfly (Sudbury Nickel Barons) skated down the left side and powered his way to the net before feeding a cross-crease pass to a hard-charging Jaren Bellini (Soo Thunderbirds) who tapped the puck into the open side past a sprawled CCHL Robinson starter Guillaume Therien (Carleton Place Canadians).
The NOJHL then took the lead with 2:40 to go in the first as Anthony Miller (Soo Thunderbirds) corralled the rebound of an Ethan Strong (Kirkland Lake Gold Miners) point shot and buried his opportunity by moving right and sliding in his second of the weekend.
Countering, CCHL Robinson drew level after Culina could not control an Andy Sturtz (Carleton Place Canadians) shot that rolled up and over the NOJHL goaltender before it was jammed in by Jordan Larson (Carleton Place Canadians) as the puck trickled to the goal line.
The two sides traded chances in the second stanza and a five-minute overtime, which solved nothing, to send the contest to extra shots to decide a winner.
After each of the first two shooters were denied, MacLean buried his opportunity, wiring it over the right pad of Therien, who is a perfect 15-0 in CCHL play so far this season with Carleton Place.
Facing one last attempt, Culina rose to the occasion once again thwarting the effort of Liam Folkes (Brockville Braves) to end it.
Unofficial shots on goal in the contest were 26-15 in favour of CCHL Robinson through 45 minutes of play, plus three apiece in the shootout.
OJHL Nieuwendyk will meet the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s St-Louis all-stars in the other semi at 10 a.m.
All three games can be viewed online, on a pay-per-view basis at www.fasthockey.com