Resilient Rapids rally past Paper Kings

ESPANOLA, Ont. – The French River Rapids responded from an early hole and rallied to defeat the Espanola Paper Kings 6-5 in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League encounter Wednesday at the Regional Recreation Complex.

Skating in his 100th NOJHL game, Espanola’s Blake Peters-Davey needed just 16 seconds to notch the night’s initial tally as he quickly beat French River starter Brady Dyer with a wrist shot while coming down the left wing.

Coming right back off the draw, the Paper Kings added another as Owen Fergusson finished off a mini two-on-one with Lucas Signoretti.

This resulted in a fast goaltending change for the visitors as Elijah Grant entered to take over early on.

The Rapids countered to cut into the deficit on Bryson Villeneuve’s first NOJHL goal as he jammed in a loose puck while battling in front of netminder Andrew Gaulton.

Battling to tie it midway through the first, French River won a draw back to the left point where Abram Snider sent a rising attempt through a maze that found its way in.

Not done there, the Rapids took the lead at 15:38 when Sergy Suschenko kept a play in at the blueline and sent a shot that eluded Gaulton.

Collecting an equalizer in the middle stanza a falling Peters-Davey hit the 100-point plateau in his career when he set-up Fergusson in close who put one upstairs to knot the affair at 3-3.

French River countered to retake the lead when Pijus Zemaitus put an attempt towards the target from between the hash marks that looked to clip off teammate Cameron Jansa and trickle in.

Special teams helped the visitors convert once more when Matthew Stringer came in off the side boards and put a shot that leaked through Gaulton from the right side during a man advantage.

After Kyle den Ouden brought Espanola closer with a wrister from the high slot, French River’s Nolan Masson won a race down the ice and stuffed in a backhand, during a brief relief stint for back-up Luka Straser, for his 15th marker of the season.

Third period action saw Fergusson supply his third of the evening and 41st overall when he wheeled out from behind the net and wired a shot off the post and in at 9:05.

Getting their goaltender out for an additional skater in the late going, the home side pressed to force overtime, but Grant and Rapids checkers held firm defensively to secure the road victory.

Solid in lengthy relief for the guests, Grant picked up the win in seeing French River improve to 10-44-1-1 on the year, while the loss drops the Paper Kings to 34-22-1-0.