COCHRANE, Ont. – Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League regular season and playoff MVP Nicholas Tallarico was at his best once again Friday night as the Hearst Lumberjacks goaltender turned aside all 34 shots he faced to backstop his club to a 6-0 victory over the Cochrane Crunch in an all-NOJHL Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship semifinal affair, in front of a jam-packed Tim Horton Events Centre.
The Lumberjacks will now take on the Oakville Blades (OJHL) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup final with a berth to the Canadian National Jr. A Championship, May 11-19 in Brooks, Alta., on the line.
It took Hearst just 14 seconds to open the night’s scoring, on an early goal-mouth scramble, where Bradley Golant, standing behind the net, spotted a loose puck, skated out and stuffed it in the open side to put the visitors in front in what proved to be the game-winner.
It was tightly-contested the remainder of the first period as Tallarico in the Lumberjacks net and Cochrane starter Bradley Dobson were solid to keep it at 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Action in the second stanza was equally a goaltender’s battle as the two stoppers were there with quality stops, when called upon, to see Hearst carry their one-goal lead into the third.
The Lumberjacks would add to their cushion 6:50 into the final frame as Daniel Fisher put one ahead to Dawson Waddell who promptly lifted a backhand over the blocker of Dobson from in close to put the guests up by a pair.
Hearst then added some insurance with just over three and half minutes remaining in regulation as Cameron Clark stole the puck from behind the goal line, then set-up Max Griffioen, who outwaited the Crunch netminder before scoring.
Cochrane added an extra attacker in an effort to cut into the deficit, however Hearst’s Christian James-McDonald helped seal the outcome with an empty netter.
J.J. Berdal, with a late power play marker, finishing off a George Young feed and Fisher in the final seconds wrapped things up offensively for the Lumberjacks.
Shots on goal favoured the winners by a 35-34 count.
To no one’s surprise, player of the game honours went to Tallarico and Dobson.
The Dudley-Hewitt Cup final will be streamed live and on demand via HockeyTV.com.
Photo credit: Timothy Bates, DHC Images