Isaak Picken scored just past the four-minute mark of overtime to lift the Espanola Rivermen to a 6-5 win over the new-look Sudbury Royals in Canadian International Hockey League action on Friday.
A crowd of 629 spectators took in the close encounter at the Espanola Community Centre.
Bryon Sam and Andrew Demarco sparked the Rivermen with two goals apiece goals while Andrei Yanovich netted the other.
Zachary Wright, Taylor Jordan, Jordan Piette, Tyler Rochon and Aiden Byrne scored for Sudbury, which recently merged with the Markstay-Warren Spirit Warriors in an attempt to ice a stronger team.
Espanola coach Tom McCarthy took note of the improved Sudbury squad.
“Sudbury iced a hockey team with a lot more energy and focus,” said Rivermen McCarthy. “They came prepared and willing to battle. They also outplayed us at times on our home ice. We might have out-chanced them and out-skated them at times but when they got opportunities they made it count.
“Overtime had lots of pressure,” McCarthy added, “but Isaak rifled it upstairs for the winning goal. We look forward to our next battle with Royals as they keep getting better.”
Sudbury coach Richard Piette was happy with the effort of his team.
“I respect the skill and work ethic the Rivermen have brought forth as of late and I knew it was going to be tough for us to compete,” said Piette, who recently took over the Sudbury bench duties. “There is a new atmosphere in the dressing room and I really think the new faces will bring accountability on the bench.
“We made a few mistakes during the game and I knew we would. But we made up for it with hard work and positive attitudes. With a little more structure, I think the boys will compete with any team in the league,” added Piette.
The win improved Espanola’s record to 12-6 while Sudbury is now 0-11-1.