Regular season competition returned to the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League on Friday for the first time since play was shut down in mid March because of the Covid-19 crisis.
And there was no shortage of excitement as the visiting French River Rapids fashioned a frantic finish to edge the Espanola Express 6-5 on a goal by Cooper Bowman in the sixth round of the shootout.
The game featured a wild conclusion with seven goals in the final 10 minutes of the third period to force the shootout.
(With potential time limit issues in arenas due to Covid-19 restraints, it has resulted in the NOJHL removing the five-minute overtime period and going straight to a shootout if games are tied after regulation.)
At any rate, trailing 5-3 with less than three minutes to play in the third period, French River tied the game at 5-5 on goals by Troy Andrews and Kyle Avery.
Ryan Smith, Ty Chambers and Nolan Burnside also tallied for French River while Ben Montgomery made 30 saves to post the win.
Northeastern Ontario products, Bradley Brunet with a pair, Joshua Kavanagh, Cole Delarosbil and Devon Savignac replied for Espanola. James Eng added three assists for the Express.
The two teams are slated to wrap-up a home-and-home set tonight in a 7 p.m. start at French River’s Noelville Community Centre.