ESPANOLA, Ont. – An A.J. Favot power play goal 1:39 into overtime was the difference as the Espanola Express went on to trim the Soo Thunderbirds 4-3 in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League play Sunday at the Regional Recreation Complex.
With the point in defeat, the Thunderbirds clinch third place in the NOJHL’s West Division standings and guarantees they’ll meet the Blind River Beavers in divisional semifinal action.
It also means the No. 5 Express will take on the No. 4 Soo Eagles in a best-of-three quarter-final series.
Schedules will be announced by the league once they are finalized.
Sunday’s tilt saw Ryan Clemons give Sault Ste. Marie the lead near the midway point of the first frame, which they carried into the intermission.
In the second stanza, Espanola drew level on a Zachary Matyasik power play effort six minutes into the session before another man advantage goal, off the stick of Cameron Walker, gave the Express the lead at 12:20.
Moving to the third, Avery Rebek tallied twice for the Thunderbirds a couple of shifts apart to give the Soo a 3-2 edge.
Answering that, Zach Trempner netted the equalizer with 8:42 remaining as his 16th sent the contest to extra time.
With a man advantage to begin OT, the Express pulled out the victory on Favot’s game-winner to end it for his club’s third power play goal of the contest.
Both netminders, in Espanola’s Joel Rainville and the Soo’s Sam Evola, made 43 saves apiece in the match-up.