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Minichiello magic late as Crunch edge Rapids in OT

COCHRANE, Ont. – Stephen Minichiello’s Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League-leading fifth goal of the season, coming with 22.6 seconds left in overtime was the difference as the Cochrane Crunch prevailed with a 3-2 triumph over the French River Rapids Saturday afternoon at Tim Horton Events Centre.

After being humbled in the season-opener in Cochrane on Thursday, French River brought a much-improved performance in this one, backed by solid goaltending from Rapids netminder Ben Montgomery.

The home side notched the lone tally of the first frame as Matthew Minichiello collected his initial league tally at 13:06.

Just over 20 minutes later, the visitors drew level in the second stanza when Kyle Avery supplied his opening league effort to knot the affair at 1-1.

Countering quickly, the Crunch regained the lead during a power play, as Christopher Lee and Hunter Buzzi worked it to Billy Paschen who finished off his first league goal at 14:33.

Battling back again, French River tied it early in the third as Alex Paul picked up his team-leading second of the young season at 1:13.

Montgomery’s efforts, that featured 45 saves in regulation, including 20 alone in the third, helped send the match-up to overtime.

A fast-paced OT going three skaters aside saw the squads go end-to-end.

The Rapids best chance in the extra session saw Griffin Simpson battle his way through a Cochrane defender and go in on a breakaway, only to be denied by Crunch netminder Carson Boutin.

Coming right back on a two-on-one, the hosts would pull out the win after defenceman Jordan Fielding sent a pass up to Matthew Minichiello, whose attempt from the right side was stopped by Montgomery, but the rebound trickled out in the crease where Stephen Minichiello stuffed in the game-winner to end it.

Boutin finished with 20 stops to record the win while Montgomery’s solid 47-save effort helped French River earn a point in the standings.