COCHRANE, Ont. -- Zach Hayes tallied twice and added an assist to help lead the Cochrane Crunch (NOJHL) to an impressive 4-1 victory over the Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) Tuesday evening in Day 1 play of the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canadian Junior A Championship at Tim Horton Events Centre.
The hometown Crunch had a great early chance score, but Trent Grimshaw rang one off the post one-minute in.
After not seeing game action in over six weeks, Cochrane had plenty of energy to commence the contest and out shot Thunder Bay 16-11 in the first frame.
The Crunch kept up the pace in the middle session and would open the scoring 3:42 into the frame as Nicholas Flanders neatly redirected, out of mid-air, a Liam Anderson left point attempt as part on an 18-shot barrage in the stanza.
They then added another four minutes later off a giveaway by a North Stars defender, that resulted in a wide-open net for Hayes, as he easily buried his opportunity from close range, in what turned out to be the game-winner.
It was more Cochrane in the back half of the frame as they capitalized on a power play chance when Jonas Leas was given time and space and allowed to walk out from behind the goal line and was left untouched as he made it 3-0 at 16:33 from the right of Thunder Bay starter Brock Aiken, who left in favour of back-up Dougie Newhouse the rest of the way after being injured moments earlier.
Following a faceoff win deep in Thunder Bay territory, Cochrane added to their cushion in the third as they worked it around to Hayes, who wired one past Newhouse from the right circle midway through the final frame.
The North Stars would dash Crunch netminder Bradley Dobson’s shutout bid with eight and a half minutes remaining as defenceman Kyle Auger skated the length of the ice and snapped a low shot in, from the left side, to put the SIJHL side on the board.
However, Dobson and his teammates held firm the rest of the way to earn the well-deserved decision.
The Cochrane goalkeeper finished with 34 saves overall to record the win.
Aiken faced 33 attempts in defeat while Newhouse handled eight of nine in over 23 minutes of relief.
Action at the DHC resumes Wednesday as the docket features the 0-1 Hearst Lumberjacks (NOJHL) meeting the 0-1 North Stars at 2:30 p.m. while the 1-0 Crunch meet the 1-0 Oakville Blades (OJHL) at 7:30 p.m.