It was two nights, two shootout, opening weekend wins for the rallying French River Rapids.
The revved up Rapids rolled to two straight extra time triumphs over their cohort rival Espanola Express to begin the 2020-2021 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League regular season.
Following a 6-5 win in the NOJHL season starter, the Rapids flowed to a 5-4 takeaway over the Express in Game 2 of the young season.
French River’s Jack Tos tied the game at 4-4 midway through the third period and the veteran forward then scored the shootout winner to boost the Rapids to their second come from behind win in as many nights over the youthful Express.
(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.)
Kyle Avery, Jack Ginocchi and Levi Siau also found the range for Rapids in support of the 36-save showing of Cole Sheffield.
Luke Bibby, Ben Anderson, Josh Boucher and Wade Bolton replied for the Express, which out-shot the Rapids by a 40-37 margin.
Bibby, a 13th round, Ontario Hockey League pick of the Owen Sound Attack from the Brantford 99ers at the 2020 priority selections draft, was arguably Espanola’s best player on the ice in the 5-4 setback.
The 6-foot, 170 pound left winger, who just turned 16 years of age on October 29, now has a goal, two assists, three points in two games to begin his NOJHL rookie season.
Meanwhile, as French River begins with four points from a 2-0-0 record, Espanola gets two points from the shootout setbacks for an 0-0-2 mark to start the 2020-2021 campaign.
Which is an exciting return to play for junior hockey in northeastern Ontario in the wake of the lingering Covid-19 pandemic that shut down the amateur game across the nation back in mid March of this year.