TORONTO – A Vince Figliomeni (Mississauga Chargers) goal in the sixth round of the shootout proved to be the decider as Team Ontario Junior Hockey League Coffey pulled out a 5-4 decision over the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League in day 1 play at the Central Canada Cup Challenge at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
The opening half of the contest saw the NOJHL start strong and jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Taking advantage of an early power play Brenden Locke of the Abitibi Eskimos pulled out from behind the net and calmly stuffed in the game’s opening tally past OJHL Coffey starter Austin Washkurak (Cobourg Cougars).
A few minutes later the NOJHL went up a pair as Anthony Miller (Soo Thunderbirds) shovelled a pass up to Luc Soares (Kirkland Lake Gold Miners) who drove hard towards the goal on a partial break before cutting right and lifting a backhand over top of Washkurak.
Special teams saw the OJHLers draw level with a couple of quick man advantage markers to tie things up.
Just 12 seconds into a power play Dawson Theede (Cobourg Cougars) had a tap in after a point shot trickled between the arm and body of NOJHL netminder Mario Culina (Soo Thunderbirds).
A loose puck from in close allowed Vince Figliomeni (Mississauga Chargers) to wire home the equalizer from the slot as he zipped a snap shot past Culina, who had no chance on the play.
The format in the three-day event sees games consisting of two, 20-minute periods and going directly to a shootout if tied after regulation.
In the second session the OJHL went up by two getting tallies four minutes apart from Abbott Girduckis (Wellington Dukes) and Dawson Theede (Cobourg Cougars).
Undeterred the NOJHL battled back late to force extra shots.
Brady Clouthier (Abitibi Eskimos) made it 4-3 at 10:43 as he sped down the left wing and unleashed a laser beam that caught the back bar in the net and bounced out with one of the game’s referees right there to signal a goal.
Continuing to press the NOJHL equalized with 3:20 remaining as league 22-goal man Dustin Cordeiro (Cochrane Crunch) ripped one top shelf to tie it at 4-4.
In the shootout, the NOJHL was hard done by and deserved a better fate as three of their six shots cleanly beat Washkurak only to be foiled by either the post or cross bar.
Locke snapped one left side for his club’s lone tally while Matthew Whittaker (North York Rangers) and Figliomeni countered for the OJHL.
Spencer MacLean (Elliot Lake Wildcats) and Jaren Bellini (Soo Thunderbirds) rang their attempts off the goal post and Clouthier’s quick shot was labelled but hit off the cross bar and bounced high out of play.
Total shots on goal in the contest were not recorded with Washkurak picking up the win and Culina the shootout setback.
The NOJHL returns to game action Saturday morning at 10 a.m. vs. OJHL Oates back in Toronto.