Sunday, March 11, 2007

Indians claim first in frantic fashion

It took their last shot in their last game of the regular season for the Soo Indians to claim first place in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Goal-scoring leader Sean Farley found range on the Indians' third attempt of the shootout to give the Tribe a dramatic 5-4 win over the Manitoulin Islanders on Saturday night at Big Bear Arena.

The victory gives the Indians 64 points from a record of 31-15-2 and first place means a first-round playoff bye. Sudbury also finished the season with 64 points, but the Jr. Wolves are relegated to second place because their 29 wins are two fewer than the Indians.

Leading 4-1 in the third period on goals by Nick Zilka, Farley, Joe Larson and James Ciotti, the Indians seemed well on their way to victory. But Manitoulin netted three goals in the space of 4:03 to tie the game and force overtime.

After a scoreless five-minute overtime, the game went to the shootout.

Indians' goalie Elliott Hogue shrugged off a shaky third period to stop all three Manitoulin shooters in the shootout. Then, after Sam Yearsley and Ky Moje were denied by Manitoulin goalie J.J. Gargour, Farley scored on a nifty set of dekes to win the game -- and first place -- for the Indians.

The Indians gave themselves a shot at first place with a 3-1 home-ice win over North Bay on Friday night. Chris MacKay scored twice for the Indians, Isaac Viau added the other and Brennan Poderzay was strong between the pipes to improve his won-loss record to 17-3, lower his goals-against average to 2.72 and improve his save percentage to .906.

The season-ending sweep capped a strong finish for the Indians under head coach Kevin Cain and his assistants Al DiPasquo and Warren LaVoy. The Indians went 9-2 down the stretch and had a 14-6 record under Cain and Co., who took over from the fired Jim Capy and his assistants in early January.

Of the victory over Manitoulin, Cain noted that "it says a lot about the closeness of the league that it went right to the end for us to finish first and to get such a tough battle from a team that finished in last.

"I give credit to my staff and to my players but that Manitoulin team never quit. I said it before that there are no easy games in this league. None."

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