FRENCH RIVER – Conor O’Brien’s second goal of the game, coming with 1:46 remaining in regulation, helped the Powassan Voodoos hold off a valiant comeback bid by the French River Rapids and prevail 6-5 Wednesday night in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League match-up at Noelville Arena.
Hitting the ice on a line change, Powassan’s Alex Little broke free and knocked down a pass heading his way as he went in on a breakaway and snapped a shot that beat French River starter Brady Dyer on the left side for his 19th goal of the season.
The Voodoos then took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission when Jaden Sturge set-up O’Brien for a one-timer in the slot as he quickly connected for his 14th tally on the campaign.
With a number of forwards out due to injury, this saw Little move up to play right wing in this one, where he added another in the middle stanza to give him 20 overall as he neatly redirected in a pass from affiliate forward Nate Gravelle in front and had it slide past Dyer.
Powassan then saw Rhys Smethem tally twice to put the visitors further ahead.
He initially tipped in a point shot while parked in front, during a man advantage, then later beat Dyer by putting a wrist shot through him while skating down the left side to put the guests up by five and see Rapids’ back-up Ben Gustafson enter the game in relief.
The Rapids got one back as defenceman Owen Either pinched in from the right point and promptly whipped in a cross-ice one timer with still over a half a game to go.
Tacking on another, French River scored after forcing a play in the corner off a faceoff that saw the puck sent off the side of the net where it bounced in front to an open Matthew Hill, who quickly fired it by Voodoos’ goalkeeper Daniel Dirracolo at 14:21.
Not sone there, the Rapids connected yet again after a big pad save by Gustafson and quickly pushed possession ahead where they forced a turnover, which allowed Jackson Doyle to dart in alone and wire one into the top right corner.
Some more quality forechecking from the home side provided another goal as Alexandre Dubuc’s sharp feed from the corner found Josh Russell streaking to the net where he steered it by Dirracolo, while driving through the crease, to make it a 5-4 game after 40 minutes.
In the third, French River got the equalizer as Russell took a play wide and brought a sliding Powassan goalkeeper with him, which left time for him to skate around the net and tuck the puck into the open side.
However, some persistent play by Powassan’s Ryan Patrick helped pull out the road victory in the late going, as he carried a play in deep prior to setting up O’Brien, who chipped the game-winner over the blocker of Gustafson at 18:14.
The Rapids got their goalie out for an additional skater after that, but the Voodoos held on to survive the valiant comeback bid by the hosts.
With the result, the Voodoos move to 35-15-1-0 on the season, while French River fell to 7-40-2-1 overall.
MAKE-UP GAME: A new date has been finalized by the NOJHL for the Rapids – Soo Eagles contest that was called off back in January, due to ice issues in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
This match-up will now be played on Tuesday, March 14 and features a 7 p.m. start at Pullar Stadium as well as on HockeyTV.com.