ESPANOLA, Ont. – Celebrating his 17th birthday in style, a Tyler Hooker tally 12:23 into the second period proved to the game-winner as the Elliot Lake Wildcats skated to a narrow 2-1 triumph over the Espanola Express in a Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League matinee Sunday afternoon at the Regional Recreation Complex.
Brett Crook helped the visiting Wildcats gain their early edge as his fourth marker of the campaign, coming during a power play chance, accounted for the lone tally of the first period.
Battling back, Espanola drew level by scoring just over three minutes into the middle stanza as Bret McInall tied it at 1-1.
However, Elliot Lake got that back later in the session as Hooker potted his third and the eventual difference maker to put the guests up by one after two.
It remained tight-checking from there as neither side created any further offense the rest of the way as the low-scoring affair came to a close.
Justin Vertesi turned in a stellar 47-save performance to record the win for the Wildcats.
Joel Rainville was equally solid between the pipes for Espanola in making 34 stops in the close defeat.