FORT FRANCES – SPORTS – A Wyatt Cota goal 2:38 into overtime proved to be the difference as the Fort Frances Lakers (SIJHL) edged the Toronto Patriots (OJHL) 2-1 Tuesday in a highly entertaining Game 2 of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A Championship at Ice for Kids Arena in Fort Frances.
It was a feeling out process for the respective two league champions in the opening 10 minutes with Toronto, the Buckland Cup winners of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, holding an early edge in shots.
In the latter stages of the stanza, the Superior International Junior Hockey League champions from Fort Frances brought the hometown faithful to their feet as Marco Romano broke free and in alone on a breakaway and made a couple of quick dekes before eventually pulling right and tucking the puck into the open side past the outstretched pad of Patriots netminder Mat Robson at 17:08.
Buoyed by three man advantage opportunities in the middle stanza, Toronto held a 16-11 edge in the shots on goal department, but they could not solve SIJHL playoff MVP Nathan Park in the Lakers net as it stayed at 1-0 through 40 minutes.
The two sides battled back and forth in the third where in the latter stages of the frame, Toronto drew level with 2:51 remaining in regulation as Jacob Hayhurst knocked the puck towards the front of the net that bounced high, hit the shoulder of a falling Park and trickled over the goal line for the equalizer.
Heading into a 10-minute overtime with the teams playing four skaters aside, the Patriots had a couple of quality opportunities in the first minute, Park kept the contest going.
Then with Toronto coming in again, Cota came hard on the backcheck, retrieved the puck at his own blueline, and in quick transition, drove quickly up the right side cutting across into the Patriots zone and proceeded to wire the game-winner past Robson to send the near capacity crowd of 1,132 into a frenzy and cap off the opening night victory.
Player of the game laurels went to each of the goaltenders with Park make 35 saves in the win and Robson 24 in the OT setback.
Round robin play continues Wednesday with two contests on the slate.
The opener features Toronto (0-1) meeting the Dryden GM Ice Dogs (SIJHL) (0-1) at 2 p.m. Central/3 p.m. Eastern while Fort Frances (1-0) takes on the Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL) (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Central/8:30 p.m. Eastern in the night cap.
Live scoring and tournament information can be found on the Dudley-Hewitt Cup website at www.centralcanadianchampionship.com.