BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
The Rayside Balfour Sabrecats overcame a 5-1 deficit and battled their cross-town rivals, the Sudbury Northern Wolves to a 6-6 tie at the Chelmsford Arena last night.
Paul Dainton, the Sabrecats goalie, came into the game late in the third period with the score at 5-1 and stood on his head, helping his team to a hard-fought tie.
The Northern Wolves were relentless in the first period, attacking starting goaltender Darren Rowlandson with shots from everywhere.
The Sabrecats played a sloppy first period with defensive miscues leading to several early goals.
Sudbury's Jeff Christison opened the scoring on a short-handed effort, when he completed a give-and-go with Tyler MacKenzie and fired the puck past Rowlandson at 4:11.
Three straight power play goals by Randy Battachio, Jesse Graham and Brian McGarry put Sudbury in a commanding 4-0 lead with only 10 minutes gone in the first period.
The Sabrecats, despite the onslaught continued to plug away at the Northern Wolves.
Rayside Balfour's Justin Lacey got the home team on the board when he crashed the net and jammed home a loose puck to make it 4-1 at 13:10.
Moments later, Sudbury continued their assault when Graham stripped the Sabrecats' defender and zipped the puck past a flustered Rowlandson to make it 5-1 at 16:30.
The Sabrecats made a goaltending switch after the goal, bringing in Dainton.
A late power play for the Sabrecats proved effective when, Kris Purawec circled around the net and fired a wrist shot past Sudbury's goalie Paul Pidutti to make it 5-2 at 18:20.
The Sabrecats continued to make noise in the second period, capitalizing on two power plays to cut the lead to one.
Purawec ripped a shot past Pidutti at 12:22 to make it 5-3.
Sudbury's Brendan Biedermann sprung on a loose puck and deposited into the net at 19:22 to make it 5-4.
Dainton was spectacular during the second period as the Northern Wolves tried desperately to repel the Sabrecats surprising comeback attempt. He stopped all 19 shots he faced.
The Sabrecats continued to wreak havoc on the power play in the third period when Rory Wilson stepped into the slot and wired a bullet shot past Pidutti at 3:12 to tie the game at 5-5.
The Sabrecats completed a minor miracle when Brodie Wilson skated in and slipped a wicked wrist shot past Pidutti to make it 6-5 at 11:41.
Dainton continued to steal the show, but, with under two minutes to go, Christian Cundari picked up a loose puck in the slot and blasted it by Dainton to tie the game at 18:22. Dainton finished the period with 16 saves.
Dainton continued to shine into overtime as he made several key saves to keep the game tied, including two point-blank saves on Sudbury's Dan Bourgeois. Dainton stopped another eight shots fired his way during the extra frame.
Sabrecats head coach Steve Richardson knows his team typically starts slow, but also finds a way to stay competitive.
"Our history so far has been that we start slow, but then we build up momentum. I think it's our younger guys who are trying to feel out a game and then as we seem to get into the flow, we seem to get better and better," said Richardson. "The guys showed a lot of character tonight."
The Sabrecats' offence woke up last night.
"We had some guys that haven't scored too much lately for us, who put a couple of pucks in the net tonight and we were also winning face offs," said Richardson.
Sabrecats' Tyler Gubler was impressed with his team's determination.
"We played a hard game. We came back from being down 5-2 at the end of the first period. We showed a lot of heart fighting back."
Another tie didn't impress Sudbury's head coach Jason Stos.
"The Sabrecats played hard, their goalie made some key saves and we ended up battling back to get a fortunate point out of the game," said Stos.
Specialty teams were the downfall.
"They had four power play goals and that's something we're going to work on. Our specialty units didn't come through for us tonight."