Canadians earn win, tie

Mark Buist pulled double duty last weekend.
The Fort Frances Midget ‘AA’ Canadians goalie was a last-minute call-up by the Borderland Thunder on Friday, and saw his first SIJHL action that night as he relieved starter Joe Bergman in the third period.
Then after sitting on the bench behind Bergman on Saturday night, Buist hustled home and was in goal Sunday to help the Canadians to a 3-3 tie in the finale of a home-and-home exhibition series with the Dryden Midget ‘AA’ Renegades at the Ice for Kids Arena.
“It was a good opportunity, I just wished I had seen more shots,” Buist said about stopping the three pucks fired his way in his 7:33 of playing time during the Fort William First Nation North Stars’ 8-5 win over the Thunder.
“But I’ll take what I can get,” he added.
Buist had little notice he was joining the Thunder for their weekend series as a necessity because of the rash of injuries and suspensions that left Borderland with more import players than allowed by the SIJHL.
“I found out on my way to school at 8 a.m.,” he chuckled. “It was quite the way to start the day.”
Buist was forced into duty for Sunday’s rematch with the Renegades due to a late-game incident in Friday’s 8-6 win by the Canadians in Dryden.
Canadians goalie Wade Friesen was run into by Dryden’s Nick Zawada with 4:15 left in the third period, and responded by smacking Zawada in the head with his blocker repeatedly.
The move garnered Friesen a match penalty and an automatic three-game suspension from all Midget play, which left him on the sidelines for Sunday’s contest here.
It also will force him to miss this weekend’s pair of games as the Canadians wrap up their first round of games in the Manitoba Eastman Midget League.
That left Buist to don the gear Sunday, with Bantam call-up Ryan Faragher serving as his back-up.
Dryden jumped to the lead 6:41 into the first when Mike Grant converted Dustin Harrington’s pass across the front of the net by going high over a sliding Buist.
Renegades goalie Curtis Lambkin, meanwhile, put on a show until he was replaced halfway through the second period, robbing Tyler Pocock and Marc Riordon on close-in chances.
But shortly after Kenny Hall took over between the pipes, Brian Vargas put Fort Frances on the board at 12:53 when his shot was inadvertently redirected by the Renegades’ Chris Gardner into his own net.
Dryden regained the lead on a power play at 18:24 as Grant won a face-off in the Canadians’ end and then set up Kyle Swanson, who rifled a shot past Buist to make it 2-1.
Rather than lick their wounds, though, Fort Frances decided to inflict one of their own just 34 seconds later.
In a scene repeated numerous times throughout the game, Dryden’s defence fell asleep and allowed Vargas to wind up with the puck all alone in front of Hall.
Vargas was stopped initially, but stuffed in the rebound to tie the affair.
The Renegades appeared as though they would not be denied, thanks to a fluke goal credited to Gardner at 12:36 of the third. After Shaun Egan turned the puck over at the Fort Frances blueline, Harrington and Gardner broke in two-on-nothing against Buist.
Harrington slid the puck over to Gardner, who only got a piece of the frozen rubber. But in a diving attempt to get back in the play, Vargas carried himself, Buist, and the puck into the net.
But the Canadians’ forward unwittingly redeemed himself at 17:47 to assist in bringing Fort Frances back a third time. Linemate Trevor Lind took a shot from just inside the Dryden blueline that hit Vargas in the backside and fluttered into the air.
Lind collected the ricochet and drilled a shot past Hall with Pocock providing a perfect screen in front.
“The guys showed a lot of character,” Canadians’ head coach Dave Egan said afterwards. “We had to dig deeper today, which we haven’t had to do that much of this year, so far.”
On Friday night, the Canadians rode a 4-2 lead after the first period to victory, with Pocock leading the way with four points, including a pair of goals.
Vargas also scored twice in that one while Tanner Ward netted the game-winner with 3:34 left in the second period.
Jason Caldwell, Elijah Smith, and Lind also connected for Fort Frances while Dryden got a pair of markers from Kendall Gardner and singles from Harrington, Rowan Bruetsch, Swanson, and Jake Calvert.
The Canadians will head west with their 4-0-1 record in the Manitoba Eastman Midget League for games against the Southern Steelers on Saturday and Steinbach Major on Sunday.
They then will wait for the Dec. 3 league meeting when all 17 teams on the circuit are split into ‘A’ and ‘B’ Divisions, depending on their record to that point in the season.