TORONTO – Three goals in a span of four and half minutes in the final period proved to be the difference as Team Ontario Junior Hockey League Oates broke open a tie game to defeat the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League 5-2 in semifinal play Sunday at the Central Canada Cup Challenge at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
The OJHL side took the lead 6:53 into the contest as Adam Brady (Kingston Voyageurs) fired a loose puck high over the outstretched glove of NOJHL starter Mario Culina (Soo Thunderbirds) following a wrap-around attempt from behind the net.
Making their first-ever semifinal appearance in the four-year history of the event, the NOJHL countered with the equalizer five minutes later as Dustin Cordeiro (Cochrane Crunch) wired one from the slot that beat OJHL Oates starter Taylor Welsh (Wellington Dukes).
OJHL Oates went back on top late in the session, just as a NOJHL penalty had expired, when Rory McGuire (Kingston Voyageurs) fired a crisp cross-ice pass right to the stick of Ryan Garvey (Oakville Blades), who made no mistake ripping a quick shot past Culina.
The NOJHL battled back once again to tie it early in the second as Dylan Callaghan (Sudbury Nickel Barons) greeted new OJHL goalkeeper Alexander Bishop (Hamilton Red Wings), who had come in to start the second half of the contest, by rifling home a shot from the left side at 1:04.
The OJHL took their third lead of the contest a few minutes later as Jackson Bales (Oakville Blades) collected his own rebound and tucked it in past Culina for the eventual game-winner.
B.J. Salerno (Pickering Panthers) then extended his team’s cushion as he broke out on a three-on-one and elected to shoot and made no mistake on his opportunity.
Just 25 seconds later Salerno added another, thanks to a fortuitous bounce, as his pass from behind the goal line hit the skate of a NOJHL defender in front and slid past an unsuspecting Culina to round out the scoring.
Commenting on the team’s performance at the three-day event that featured a multitude of scouts at all levels from major junior, the CIS and NCAA to the National Hockey League; NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca was more than pleased with the club’s results.
“We would like to congratulate every member of Team NOJHL, from the players, coaches, training, equipment and support staff for their tremendous efforts this weekend,” offered Mazzuca.
“Our club competed mightily against the premier talent of the OJHL, CCHL and QJHL and our performance showed we belong,” stated the commissioner.
“The many scouts in attendance certainly took notice that the talent level in the NOJHL is definitely worthy of consideration and we hope the efforts made here will assist members of Team NOJHL in their respective pursuits of moving on to the next level,” added Mazzuca.
Unofficial shots on goal in the two-period match-up were 30-22 in favour of OJHL Oates who will now meet OJHL Nieuwendyk in the championship game at 6 p.m. back in Toronto.
Nieuwendyk edged the Quebec Junior Hockey League’s St-Louis Division Selects 4-3 in their semifinal contest played earlier Sunday.