It sure looks like the second half of the NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League) schedule will be every bit as tightly contested as the first half was.
After competing in 14 games decided by just one goal in the first three months of the year (plus a tie), the Rayside-Balfour Canadians started with another pair to add to the list. Unfortunately, they came out on the wrong end of both encounters.
Max Khull scored at 3:23 of the first overtime four on four session Saturday night in Chelmsford, lifting the visiting Blind River Beavers to a 2-1 win over the Canadians.
The contest had remained scoreless until well into the second period, when Cayse Ton produced a nifty deflection of a shot from defenceman Logan Lefebvre, breaking the ice offensively for the home side.
That goal stood until 4:37 of the third period, when Caleb Serré pulled Blind River even, finishing off a pretty passing play that also involved brothers Steven and Max Khull.
Both goaltenders were solid, with Aidan Doak recording 37 saves for the win while Cameron Lamour handled 29 of the 31 shots that he faced for Rayside.
The scoring was substantially more bountiful on Sunday in Sault Ste. Marie, as the Thunderbirds edged the Canadians 6-5, with Keegan Stevenson breaking the 5-5 deadlock with only 3:33 remaining in the game.
Zach Senecal, with a pair, Noah Solinger, Austin Kozluk and Nick Smith joined Stevenson on the scoresheet for the winners, with Kyle Liinamaa and Kaleb Peldjak answering with two goals each for the visitors, and Ton closing things out.
Owen Johansson got the call to start the game for Rayside, but was pulled midway through the second, with his team trailing 3-2. Johansson and Lamour combined to make 30 saves for coach Dave Clancy and company, while Doug Newhouse finished with 22 stops for the T-Birds.
Rayside-Balfour is at home for a pair of games next weekend, welcoming the Espanola Express on Saturday night at 7 p.m., and hosting the Soo Eagles on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
The Canadians hold on second place in the NOJHL West Division is down to just a single point over Blind River, with the Eagles lurking three points back of the Beavers.