TIMMINS, Ont. – Brady Harroun’s second goal of the game, coming with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, proved to be the game-winner as the Timmins Rock pulled out a narrow 4-3 decision versus a resilient French River Rapids side Thursday in Game 5 of their Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League East Division semifinal, in front of nearly 800 fans at McIntyre Arena.
That sees the Rock take the best-of-seven match-up 4-1 as they move on to the divisional final against either the Powassan Voodoos or Hearst Lumberjacks.
Powassan currently leads that series 3-1, with Game 5 going Friday in Hearst.
Thursday’s contest saw French River get themselves off to a solid start by notching the night’s opening tally, less than two minutes in.
It came about on a dump-in off the end boards that skipped over the stick of a Timmins defender and was eventually put over to Brandon Melsness, who lifted an attempt over the glove of Rock starter Jacob Brown at 1:55.
The home side generated plenty of opportunities the remainder of the period, but they could not solve Rapids’ netminder Brady Dyer, as the visitors carried their 1-0 lead into the intermission.
Continuing to battle in the middle frame, the visitors went up by two moments after a man advantage opportunity with Owen Ethier knocking in a loose puck into the opener corner.
Timmins regrouped a couple of shifts later on a rush up ice where Lucas Piekarczyk chipped a play around a French River defenceman then sent a feed across that was steered in by Harroun.
End-to-end action late in the period saw both sides exchange quality chances, but could not convert as the Rapids held their 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Rock drew level at 12:46 when Felix Cadieux-Fredette connected on a second chance from between the circles, on a delayed penalty, as he put one past Dyer.
They then took their first lead while on a power play with 4:18 to go on a Piekarczyk marker, as he took a Nolan Ring pass and sent a rising effort by the Rapids’ goalkeeper.
Undaunted, French River fought back when Josh Russell blocked at shot, then darted in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, where his well-placed shot over the shoulder of Brown levelled the score with three minutes to play.
However, still up a skater, Timmins got the decider from Harroun with 2:13 remaining, moments after being robbed by a brilliant Dyer save by for his NOJHL-leading sixth of the postseason with 2:13.
Getting their goalie out late, the Rapids pressed hard right to the end to try and force overtime, but the Rock held on to close out the series.
NOJHL East Division semifinal
Timmins Rock vs. French River Rapids
Game 1: Rock 8 Rapids 2
Game 2: Rock 7 Rapids 0
Game 3: Rapids 4 Rock 3 (OT)
Game 4: Rock 4 Rapids 1
Game 5: Rock 4 Rapids 3
Timmins wins best-of-seven series 4-1
Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network