LGRAND FALLS – In what was considered a must-win game for the Rapids, they responded well by defeating the Miramichi Timberwolves by a score of 5-3 Friday night on home ice.
Josh Russell led the way offensively with a hat trick while Yannic Bastarache scored a pair, his 18th and 19th goals of the season.
Miramichi led in shots on goal (46 to 36), but Rapids’ netminder Frédéric Plourde had a strong game between the pipes, helping his team put an end to an 8-game winless streak.
By earning two precious points against the team they are chasing in the standings for a playoff spot, the Rapids have now cut the margin to 6 points on the Timberwolves. Grand Falls now has a record of 15 wins and 16 losses on the season for a total of 30 points.
It was important for the Rapids to come out of the gate strong, and it is exactly what they did. Besides getting some great quality shots on net, Greg Leland’s squad outskated its opponents and had a great forechecking game going, forcing the Timberwolves to turn over the puck on a few occasions.
It was a power play goal that got things going for the Rapids, which came at 5:15 of the opening frame. From behind the Timberwolves’ net, Marc-Antoine Belzile fed a pass in front to Josh Russell who scored on a one-timer, giving Grand Falls a 1-0 lead which prevailed through twenty minutes of play.
The Rapids doubled their lead early in the second period on a great individual effort from Mathis Huot who came along the boards before sending the puck to the slot to Russell who scored his second goal at 1:33.
Miramichi scored its first goal at 9:09 on a tip in front of the net by Felix Landry. But the Rapids regained their two-goal cushion at 13:02 on another power play tally, this one coming from the stick of Yannic Bastarache on a screen shot from the point.
After two periods of play, Miramichi led 27-23 in shots on goal, but the Rapids were ahead on the scoreboard by a score of 3-1.
The Timberwolves cut the margin to 3-2 at 4:56 of the final frame on a wraparound goal from Sam McKinney. Josh Russell responded for the Rapids at 10:59 with his third goal of the night, scoring on a rrebound in front of goaltender Ryan Knight.
Travis Badcock once again cut the lead to one goal for Miramichi at 16:54 with the man advantage, but Yannic Bastarache added Grand Falls’ fifth goal into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining.
The Rapids scored twice on the power play in this contest, which brings their season total to 31 PP goals.
Miramichi was penalized for a total of 51 minutes while the Rapids received 20 minutes.
The Rapids will try to win for a second consecutive time on home ice on Sunday afternoon as they host the Campbellton Tigers. Puck drop is at 3pm at the E.&P. Sénéchal Centre.
*Josh Russell (3 goals), Yannic Bastarache (2g 1a), Ben Diamond (4a) and Mathis Huot (3a) all led the Rapids’ offence on Friday night.
Travis Badcock (1g 1a) led the way for the Timberwolves.
*Miramichi had two goals that were disallowed in the game after the net went of its moorings.
*Game attendance: 754 spectators
*Three stars of the game: 1- Josh Russell (GFR); 2- Frédéric Plourde (GFR); 3- Mathis Huot (GFR)
5:15 GFR Josh Russell (2) ASST: Marc-Antoine Belzile (8), Yannic Bastarache (25) (PP)
1:33 GFR Josh Russell (3) ASST: Mathis Huot (16), Ben Diamond (18)
9:09 MIR Felix Landry (12) ASST: Travis Badcock (7)
13:02 GFR Yannic Bastarache (18) ASST: Ben Diamond (19) (PP)
4:56 MIR Sam McKinney (10) ASST: Jacob Santerre (34)
10:59 GFR Josh Russell (4) ASST: Mathis Huot (17), Ben Diamond (20)
16:54 MIR Travis Badcock (4) ASST: Mason Beck (21) (PP)
19:22 GFR Yannic Bastarache (19) ASST: Mathis Huot (18), Ben Diamond (21) (EN)